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#774: Upgrading to Lion and Rosetta, Trojan Security, Thunderbolt


Hello all,

Matt is away for a couple of weeks on a long-overdue vacation so there will be some new people writing the intros for the next couple of issues. Matt likes to talk about the weather during his intro, and that seems like a fine tradition to continue.

I am in the Champlain Valley near the lake, which usually has a different climate than the mountain valley where Small Dog central is located. After a recent week of record-breaking temperatures things have settled down to… well… hmmm… to describe the weather here lately, we’ve been using words like “variable” to be kind (and lots of words that are unfit to print). Violent thunderstorms, hail, rain, sun, flooding, hot, cold… and it’s only lunchtime.

Someone did just remind me that the first day of summer was really only about a week ago, though, so I’m hopeful things will settle down soon and we’ll have a stretch of the classic Vermont summer weather that reminds us why we live here.

Happy Computing!

Liam Flynn, South Burlington Lead Tech

  Trojan Security  

Over the past several weeks, Apple’s OS has been hit by some pretty inventive malware that has been tricking a large number of users into thinking their systems have been infected by viruses. This has shown up as MacDefender or MacProtector. We’ve had a few articles in our newsletter describing how to remove the software if you’ve inadvertently infected your system. What hasn’t been mentioned are the steps Apple has taken to try to combat this attack.

If you’re running 10.6, you should have gotten several security updates with virus definitions in them that will enable your computer to protect itself against this particular trojan. There are some options in the Security preference pane that need to be turned on to take advantage of this. They should be turned on by default but it’s good practice to just visually confirm these settings to ensure that your system is safe.

If you go to the Security preference pane and click on the General tab you should have “Automatically update safe downloads list” checked off. This will enable your system to be updated without having to download a new Security Update. I have read reports of a bug with this feature with a very small set of users who are not having the virus definitions pushed to their computer within 24 hours as it should be. I haven’t read any report of an official response from Apple about this bug and I haven’t been able to replicate it myself.

For those of you who don’t run your Software Update when it says that there are new downloads, it’s a good idea to have this feature checked off. I recommend it for everyone, however, and for those of you who don’t want Apple to have that level of authority over your system, just be sure to regularly run your Software Update and you should be fine.

  Thunderbolt Pros and Cons  

One feature of the newest generation of Apple computers is something so new that when the machines were released, there wasn’t even any outboard hardware available to take advantage of it. I am, of course, talking about the Thunderbolt interface developed by Intel and Apple.

It combines two separate 10 Gbps channels—one for video and one for data—into a plug with the same form factor as the Mini DisplayPort already present on recent generations of laptops and desktops. We’ve been waiting pretty excitedly to hear any news or reviews—10Gbps is just such a huge jump from current FireWire and USB technology, which sit at 800Mbps and 480Mbps respectively. It’s even twice as fast as the cool (but still mostly unused) USB 3.0.

Apple started selling a Thunderbolt cable and some Thunderbolt-equipped RAID systems, and there are some early reports out there. And so far, it seems to be performing up to the hype. A MacBook Pro with a RAID system can have transfer rates up to four times that of FireWire 800 and almost 20 times that of USB 2.0. As always with these kinds of things, your mileage will vary with your hardware and type of work you are doing, but those are some serious numbers!

The thing that remains to be seen is whether this new interface will catch on. Proprietary interfaces traditionally don’t do well. Apple’s FireWire, for instance, is a great interface—superior to USB, really—but USB’s universality and low cost has pretty much crowded FireWire out… even Apple stopped offering it on the MacBook, in part bowing to the fact that USB is by far the interface of choice in the world.

Thunderbolt isn’t Apple-proprietary (Sony has announced a Thunderbolt-equipped Vaio) but it is Intel-proprietary. That may be fine for Apple users, but Intel certainly has competition out there, and USB 3.0—while slow to take off—is in use by other chip/board makers, most notably AMD.

We’ll have to wait and see, but for now I’m counting down the days until I can buy a Thunderbolt drive or two…

  The Last Roar of Rosetta  

With the release of Lion lurking on the horizon, we’ve been inundated with questions on upgrade strategies and compatibility. Lion is jam-packed with a ton of new features and many of us are itching to upgrade! However, as with any new operating system upgrade, it’s important to take time to ensure your apps are compatible before taking the plunge.

Since Lion hasn’t been released yet, it’s hard to say exactly which apps are or are not compatible with Lion. What we do know for sure is that Rosetta, an emulator for running PowerPC-only apps on Intel-based machines, is no longer supported. As with the loss of OS9 (or “Classic”) support in Leopard (10.5), Lion (10.7) is forcing us to rip off that bandage of 6+ year old PowerPC-only apps.

Unlike Classic apps that slowly launched the Classic environment when run in OS X, many of us aren’t aware when we’re running apps in Rosetta. So how do you tell which of your apps use Rosetta? Well, if you want to take the slow route, you could select each app individually in your “Applications” folder, right-click and select “Get Info.” But who wants to do things the slow way? How about we view all of our PowerPC apps in a nice easy alphabetized list?

To view all of the applications on your machine regardless of location, open up System Profiler. You can do that either by going to the Apple Menu on the top left of your screen, selecting “About This Mac…” and hitting “More Info…”, or by navigating to Applications/Utilities and opening “System Profiler” from there. Once open, you should see “Software” in the lower lefthand column. Make sure the triangle is pointing down (click it if it isn’t) and select “Applications.” If you’re an app pack rat like I am, this could take a while to load, but eventually all of your applications will show up in a nice long list.

Once your applications appear, you can click on the “Kind” column to sort by kind. You will most likely have three kinds: Intel, Universal and PowerPC. Some lucky people may still also have Classic apps on their system. If you have any Classic apps and you’re running 10.5 or later, please note those apps don’t open so it would be in your best interest to remove them from your machine. Draw your attention to the PowerPC apps. Those are the ones that will not run under Lion.

Once you’ve identified the PowerPC apps, it’s time to make some decisions. You might find that you haven’t opened some of those apps in years and don’t mind throwing them away; I certainly felt that way about an ancient AOL installer that I happened to have kicking around. Others might have you getting a bit flush at the thought of losing, like my very outdated but still useful licensed copy of BBEdit or, heaven forbid, my copy of Snood. (Editor’s note: I long to have Snood again… should have never gotten rid of it! -KH) So, what do you do if you have a PowerPC-only app that you adore but you still want to upgrade to Lion? Well, your choices are a bit limited.

First off, head over to the developer’s website or a popular download site like Macupdate and see if there’s a newer version of that software that is either Universal or Intel-based. If not, you can always write to the developer to inquire whether or not they have a new version in the works. If they don’t, then you’re left with the choice of either shopping around for another comparable software title or holding off on your Lion upgrade.

One word of advice is that if the developer is outright not looking to develop new versions of their software, it really is time to start shopping around. The longer you wait, the more outdated your software will become. Folks with expensive software titles often don’t like hearing that answer, but it’s better to start preparing for an upgrade than to wait until your outdated hardware fails and you’re forced into a swift unplanned upgrade.

There are two last things that are important to note. First of all, if you find a PowerPC app in System Profiler and you have no idea what it is, that is not actually a sign you should delete it. First click on it and look at the pathname that appears on the bottom of the screen. If it’s an app that’s nestled within an app that you use regularly, I definitely recommend not deleting it.

For example, I have an app called Microsoft Query that lives in /Applications/Microsoft Office 2011/Office/. I regularly use Office 2011, which in-and-of-itself is a Universal app. However, this one helper app within the Office suite is a PowerPC-only app. I’m going to let it hang out there for now since I don’t want to risk damaging my Office 2011 suite. Only delete an app if you’re 100% sure what the app is and what it does and you don’t mind losing it.

Lastly, it’s important to remember that just because an app is “Universal” or “Intel” it is not guaranteed to work with Lion. If you have a third-party app that you rely on heavily, I strongly recommend checking with the developer and applicable forums before upgrading and then finding out you have compatibility issues. It’s much easier to continue using your current working setup than to attempt to downgrade your OS or wait for a patch.

I know many of us—myself included—are trigger-happy to install Apple’s latest and greatest, but save yourself a headache and do your app research before taking the plunge! As for me, I’ll be using TextWrangler in lieu of splurging on the newer BBEdit, but, unfortunately, it seems I’ll only be playing Snood on my iPhone from now on (Editor’s note: Yay! I’m on it! -KH).

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