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#821: Viruses, Malware and Trojans, Oh My, July 9th: ATTENTION!, Battery Monitors


We are back to work after a glorious 3-day weekend. The weather in Vermont could not have been nicer. It really is what makes putting up with our cold winters worth the effort.

Random Hacks of Kindness (or RHoK) is this weekend. This is a global event of which Small Dog Electronics is taking a small part in by partnering to host a RHoK event in Burlington, VT. If you are local and want to join in with this charitable event, visit our Facebook page.
(Click here for more details or if you’re not on Facebook.)

Even if you are not local but want to participate, it’s likely that there is an event near you. I find it very exciting to think that we may be playing a small part in making the life of someone just a little bit better.

Did you know that Small Dog Electronics is one of Apple’s Premium Service Providers? This means that we have reached a level of customer service determined by Apple to be above their highest standards. We are authorized to provide service to all Apple products including the iPhone. Please keep us in mind if you accidentally drop your phone or run over it with your car.

Speaking of running over with your car, have you seen the video of an iPad being run over by a truck? It’s here on YouTube and it’s a video done by’s Geek Dad, Jim Kelly. Jim had read a story about one of our Hammerhead Capo Case user’s iPad being driven over when forgotten on the roof of his car and wanted to recreate it to see if it would work.

We thought the iPad would be toast, but look out world—Jim actually runs over the iPad with his truck! We have a picture of Art with the iPad and iPad case after it was returned to us for inspection. The case and iPad were completely undamaged (well, there are a few small divots in the case) but considering that I thought there would be smushed iPad guts on the guy’s driveway, it’s undamaged!


  Battery Monitors  

As Apple and consumers move more and more to portables as their primary machines, the health of the rechargeable battery in the unit becomes more and more an issue. There are many tools available to monitor your battery and its health—how do you monitor it?

Apple has included a simple battery monitor display in the menu bar since OS 8. The relative charge percentage or approximate run time left in the battery are two variables that frequently change depending on exactly what you are doing with the computer. The hardware information of the battery, build and firmware information, capacity, cycle count, health and amperage output along with other statistics can be viewed in the Hardware section of System Profiler, under “Power.”

The information that System Profiler provides can also be viewed in Terminal by using the ioreg command. One of the many commands in Terminal to look at your battery performance is:

ioreg -l | grep Capacity

Much like System Profiler, the Terminal application and command is a snapshot of the performance at the time you hit enter on the command.

What choices do you have if you want dynamic tracking of the battery and its performance? One of the more common applications I have seen on customer machines in the past (and that we’ve mentioned) is Coconut Battery.

The free app is a modest 1.5MB in size and provides real-time information on your battery. Like System Profiler and Terminal, Coconut Battery is an App window unto its own. It adds clutter to your display in its small window. It provides information regarding current charge, original capacity and current maximum charge. It also provides some system information about your computer, model of your machine, age of your computer and battery load cycles. It is not a static look of the battery and provides regular updates regarding the batteries key statistics.

Of the applications I have found for battery monitoring though, Mac Data Recoveries Battery Guru is the one I like the most. This lightweight app functions as a Menu bar add-on. It does not run as an application in its own window, but rather a clean drop down. It provides the same data as provided by all the other apps mentioned and includes another key piece of information: Current Usage.

The Current Usage is a real-time monitor of the output of the battery. You can monitor the Current Usage and monitor when your battery is under higher levels of stress. When you no longer need the information (such as when it’s plugged in), you can select Quit from the drop down and it disappears from the menu bar. Battery Guru absorbs a mere 369KB of disk space on your machine. Watching its processes in Activity Monitor, I have never seen Battery Guru use a significant percentage of processing power. Its footprint in memory was also smaller than CoconutBattery when activated.

What do you use to monitor your battery?

  Make Sure You're Clean Before July 9th

July 9th is being called “Internet Doomsday” by some security firms and trade magazines. Last year, the FBI arrested several people who were running an international scam. They used malware called “DNSChanger” to modify network settings on millions of computers worldwide; instead of going to local DNS servers, these infected systems went to rogue servers controlled by hackers who made an estimated $14 million from advertising revenue.

The servers were rendered harmless, but a lot of people are still unknowingly using them, so the FBI kept them running to give people time to clean up the mess. These servers will be taken offline on July 9th, so anyone still pointing to them on that date will have problems accessing Internet sites.

Last November, we featured an article that explained how domain name resolution works. The rogue DNS servers mentioned above took advantage of DNS redirection in order to draw traffic. Normally, your system has the address of your ISP’s DNS server, or the address of your company’s internal server. The DNSChanger malware would alter this setting to point to a network controlled by hackers, so instead of sending DNS requests to Comcast or Verizon, you’re sending them to a compromised server that may or may not give you what you wanted. Unless you went into your network settings and checked, you would have no idea that anything was different. Even if you did check, how would you know whether or not the numbers were correct? They’re just numbers, which by themselves don’t mean anything to most people.

Internet Service Providers typically have multiple DNS servers. If one goes down for any reason, another will take over. However, the entire cluster of formerly-rogue DNS servers will be taken offline July 9th, and there is no automatic failover. When an infected system tries to go to Facebook, instead of their wall coming up, it will return an error that the site could not be found. The system will no longer have a DNS server to look up where “” is. Tech support lines will be flooded with people who suddenly can’t access the Internet, most of them assuming that it’s the fault of their provider.

Before that all happens, everyone should check their system to make sure they are clean. Here are two sites to visit: DNS-OK and The DNS Changer Working Group. DNS-OK is run by the FBI, and will run a quick check on your system to make sure it is set correctly. DCWG will not only tell you if you’re clean, but offer tips and links to fix the problem if you have it.

I urge everyone to check out one of those sites to verify that they were not affected. That goes for Mac users as well as those on Windows—gone are the days of sitting back and smugly saying, “I’m on a Mac, it can’t affect me.” WRONG—the past year alone has shown that we ARE vulnerable, if not by flaws in the OS, then by flaws in Internet clicking discipline. Check out your system before the deadline so you’re not dead in the water.

Image Source

  Viruses, Malware and Trojans, Oh My  
  malware virus trojan

The latest malware attack on the Mac OS has largely blown over, though I still hear people talking about Flashback and viruses on the Mac. One thing that keeps coming up are the amount of people calling Flashback a virus when it’s actually a trojan. Intego, an antivirus software company, runs a Mac security blog and they did a pretty good article recently on the various terms for different types of malware, so I thought I’d share some of it with you.

Most people seem to lump all malicious software into the term “virus.” This is inaccurate. All malicious software can be lumped into a catchall term of malware. Viruses are a very specific type of malware that replicates and spreads itself once installed on the computer. To my knowledge viruses are still pretty rare on the Mac, mostly because the majority of black hat hackers are writing code for Windows-based systems. What Macs are currently vulnerable to are trojans. These are malware that masquerade as legitimate programs and are installed by the user. Once installed they can cause harm to your system.

Flashback was a trojan (as was MacDefender) that hit last year, and both of which were done by the same people. Flashback disguised itself as an Adobe Flash updater and once you installed it, it would redirect certain ad-centric web traffic to a different server. Had it worked like the hackers planned, the revenue for those ads would have gone to them rather than the advertisers. These trojans almost always require user intervention to install themselves. So if you’re not paying attention to what you’re clicking on or entering your passwords for you are vulnerable.

I think it’s a good idea nowadays to have antivirus software installed on your computer. While the majority of malware out there will not affect your computer, that number is going to change. The market share of Apple computers is increasing, and with the popularity of iPhones and iPads we’re becoming more of a target to nefarious computer users. There are many antivirus programs on the market, and some are better than others. Some will slow your machine down to a crawl and others let your machine still run great but don’t actively scan your hard drive.

I’ve gone back and forth between Sophos and ClamX, and it really comes down to personal preference. If you’d like to read Intego’s article on security jargon (I’ve only covered a small fraction here) you can read it here.

  TT SPECIAL: Save $5 (+ your Mac) with Norton AntiVirus  

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Keep your Mac and your data protected against late-breaking threats. This software updates at least once a day to stop viruses and other malware before they can damage your Mac and your iPhoto pictures, iTunes media and other important data.

It automatically detects new threats that try to take advantage of vulnerabilities in applications and software on your Mac. It even scans your iChat messages for suspicious attachments. Stay safe from new threats with automatic protection and updates that won’t slow you down or get in your way.


  TT SPECIAL: 64GB iPod touch with Helmet Speakers  

Get ready for motorcycle season with a brand new iPod touch with enough room for all of your Steppenwolf records and the Easy Rider sound track.

   64GB iPod with Chill Pill Audio Helmet Speakers
   64GB iPod with Chill Pill Audio Helmet Speakers
  TT SPECIAL: Daduates and Graduates  

It’s that time of year again: the leaves are on the trees, the flowers are in bloom, the lawnmowers are humming in the distance (except for mine because it is a human-powered push mower-Mike D.) and we prepare to honor our Dads and grads.

We have three tiers of specials perfect for the person in your life who has replicated or matriculated. These specials are also available with any computer we sell, so please give us a call if you want a different Mac bundle for those who are done with school and those who have contributed to the gene pool.

   D+G | Save $25: MacBook Pro + sleeve + mousepad
   D+G | Save $50: MacBook Pro w/ AppleCare + mousepad + sleeve
   D+G | Save $75: MacBook Pro w/ AppleCare + 8GB RAM + mousepad + sleeve