Universal Music Needs a New CEO

It’s a little off-topic for this site but I couldn’t let Doug Morris’s interview with Wired go by without comment. Mr. Morris is the “chair and CEO” of Universal Music Group. This quote brought forth uncontrollable laughter:

“If you had Coca-Cola coming through the faucet in your kitchen, how much would you be willing to pay for Coca-Cola? There you go,” he says. “That’s what happened to the record business.”

Mr. Morris, what does come out of faucets is water. Which is a $15 Billion business (and growing) in the U.S. And, by the way, Coca-Cola is #2 in the water business with 11% of the market. Oh yea, and the water they sell is purified tap water – the free stuff from the faucet. The number 1 water seller (Pepsi) also sells purified tap water. So almost a quarter of the water sold is tap water. Perhaps Mr. Morris can learn a thing or two from the water business.

But another quote seems to indicate Mr. Morris knows he’s not capable of doing his job:

“We didn’t know who to hire,” he says, becoming more agitated. “I wouldn’t be able to recognize a good technology person — anyone with a good bullshit story would have gotten past me.” Morris’ almost willful cluelessness is telling. “He wasn’t prepared for a business that was going to be so totally disrupted by technology,” says a longtime industry insider who has worked with Morris. “He just doesn’t have that kind of mind.”

If I was on the board of directors I’d be looking for a new CEO. If I was a stockholder I’d sell. But I’m neither, so I laugh.

Security Links & News

No Security Quest this week, but here’s some links from the past week.

Akismet.com: It really is spam – Interesting article about comment spam. In the past, I’ve had to delete a few of these “compliment” comments that contained spam links and made it through the filters, and I’ve seen numerous others that were caught by the filters. It does seem to be a growing trend.

Mozilla Firefox Release Notes – Firefox was released to address 3 high impact security issues. (High is less than the highest rating of critical.)

News.com: Apple QuickTime exploit published. – Exploit code has been published for a vulnerability in Apple’s QuickTime software. According to to bulletins only QuickTime on Windows is affected.

Techdirt.com: NAB Spams FCC Over XM-Sirius Merger; Uses People Who Claim They Had Nothing To Do With It – A new take on spam. One recipient, many sender names, even if the people named had nothing to do with it.

WashingtonPost.com: Exploit Released for Unpatched QuickTime Flaw – Security Fix – The title says it all.

theregister.com: Leopard security bug puts Mail users at risk – A old jpg vulnerability has returned to Apple Mail according to The Register.

OS X 10.5 Leopard Frustrations

While I’m very happy with OS X 10.5 Leopard overall and don’t regret the upgrade there are some things that annoy me or a outright bugs.

Let’s get the translucent menu bar and menus out of the way. The translucent menu bar doesn’t bother me because I use a dark background. Still, the translucent menus are a problem when they drop down over other programs. Having the text on the screen bleed through the menus makes them hard to read, looks terrible, and makes no sense. I’ve seen hacks for the translucent menu bar, but nothing on the menus yet.

Also on my list of annoying and counter-productive UI changes are the dynamic stack icons in the dock. I doubt I’m alone in scanning icons in the doc for visual recognition of the icon and not want figure out its physical position. Having the download, documents and other stack icons dynamically change based on the first file in the directory is downright annoying. Luckily there’s a very clever solution that Apple should implement.

On to the area of bugs. On both my iMac and MacBook I’m experiencing shutdown problems. The Mac begins the shutdown process, clears the screen and stays that way forever (which is about 20 minutes in my reality) and I have to power off. The problem only occurs when an external drive is connected and was used during the session. The problem seems to have been fixed with the OS X 10.5.1 update. But it was a sporadic problem so my fingers are still crossed.
While Spaces is still my favorite feature it’s far from perfect. It would be nice to be able to open an app in multiple spaces, with each space having its own instance. Or if an app can have multiple windows (like Finder or Safari) then having a different window in each space should be possible. This would make for easier organization of Spaces by task. The best I can do now is set a program to follow me from space to space which isn’t very efficient.

My MacBook has another issue with the external drive I use with it. Every so often it throws up the error to the left. The SimpleTech 320GB USB drive I’m using for Time Machine is unmounting and re-mounting itself. This could be a hardware problem since I only used the drive a few days before installing Leopard. It happens with both USB drives I’ve tried but not when the drive is connected via Firewire. So it’s either the MacBook hardware or Leopard.

Of course, my iMac has a different problem with the external USB drive. If the external drive is in power save mode when the iMac starts up it sometimes fails to mount the drive when I power up the iMac. I doesn’t happen all the time, maybe about half the time.

With the original Leopard release my Mac Mini (which has an in-place upgrade done) couldn’t connect to my wireless network when starting up or coming out of sleep mode. The OS X 10.5.1 update seems to have resolved this problem.

So all-in-all, not much to really complain about. If there wasn’t something it wouldn’t be a real OS upgrade.

No Trail Log This Week

Anyone who cares probably always noticed there wasn’t a new Trail Log on Sunday. A bit of a slow week on the quest due to holiday preparations and no links or other news I felt like talking about.

Parallels 3 Beta Updated

Parallels has released Parallels 3 Beta Build 5570, it’s available from their beta download page.

Most of the improvements over the previous beta center around Leopard compatibility. I’d been having problems with Parallels under Leopard which had driven me to start using VMware Fusion almost exclusively. Most of my really annoying issues have seemed to revolve around Spaces in coherence mode. The release noted mention “multiple problems” in this area have been fixed.

The release notes (included in the download DMG file) lists several known issues that remain in build 5570. Some of them, such as “BSOD on resume” are rather serious and could result in data loss others are relatively minor.

So, I’ll be installing the updated beta and taking it for a spin in the next few days.

Security Quest #11: Leopard Firewall Updates

Apple recently released security updates for their OS products and among those were updates for Leopard all centered around the firewall. The three firewall updates were included in the OS X 10.5.1 update.

One of the fixes took a page from Microsoft by changing some words to help call the problem solved. This “re-wording” was for the problem described as:

The “Block all incoming connections” setting for the firewall is misleading.

Apple fixed this so the setting now reads “Allow only essential services”. According to the bulletin they have reduced the number of apps that allow connections through the firewall. It used to be any app running as root could get through the firewall. Now the list is limited to configd (for DHCP and network configuration), mDNSResponder for Bonjour, and racoon for IPSec.

Previously, any process running as root would be allowed through the firewall even if it was on the list to block. The OS X 10.5.1 update now blocks any process that’s in the list to be blocked, even if it runs as root.

And in the third firewall fix Apple changed it so that changes to the firewall take effect immediately. Previously some processes had to be restarted for the change to take effect.

So, Apple made some changes to the firewall so it makes a little more sense and the way it works is more clearly defined. I still prefer the OS X 10.4 method of opening ports by number.

News & Links

BlogSecurity.net: RR Securing WordPress Tips – Good tips for securing a WordPress website.

PaulStamatiou.com: Privacy Implications of RFID Tags – An interesting read on the topic.

Wired.com: Hushmail To Warn Users of Law Enforcement Backdoor – Hushmail, always thought to be secure, can read any email with a court order. Even those using their most secure product.

apple.com: Apple security updates (OSX 10.3 & 10.4 and Safari 3 Beta for Windows – Apple released OS X 10.4.11 for Tiger which includes security updates. Also Security Update 2007-008 for OS X 10.3.9. And finally, Safari 3.0.4 beta for Windows which includes security updates.

news.com: In ID theft, some victims see opportunity – Roundup of ways companies make money from ID theft. Needing to pay to protect our identity just seems wrong to me.

Mac BitTorrent Client: Transmission

This post and software is obsolete. Images and broken external links have been removed.

Fedora 8 was released recently and I wanted to download a copy. With a DVD size of over 3GB bittorrent was the way to go. I’d used Azureus in the past, but hadn’t re-installed it after upgrading to Leopard. I decided to change up and go with something new. Azureus was moving heavily toward video and had the interface to prove it. I wanted a simple client that would just download files. I went with the popular Transmission open source bittorrent client. The Mac version is a universal binary. The latest version was released May 11, 2007 and is at version 0.92. Using it couldn’t have been easier.After downloading the DMG I just copied transmission.app to my applications directory and fired it up. I was asked if I wanted to allow incoming connections through the OS X firewall. (I use Leopard and have the firewall set to “Set Access for Specific Services and Applications”.) Initiating the torrent download was as easy as downloading the torrent file and double-clicking it to initiate the download via Transmission.Port assignments were automatic. At least they were with my Apple Airport Extreme. The screenshot below shows the port configuration screen.The main Transmission screen is shown below. The first download listed is the Fedora download. It’s completed downloading but it still being used to seed. I’ve set the seed ratio to 2.0 so it will stop seeding when it reaches that limit. The current ratio is 0.46 as I’ve set a cap on my upload bandwidth of 256KB/s, about a third of what’s available. the second download shown is still downloading and uploading.Another feature I like is that the dock icon for transmission shows the current upload and download speeds. The icon is shown to the right. Transmission also automatically integrates with Growl and sends notifications when downloads complete, among other events. Transmission can watch a directory for torrent files and automatically begin to download them when new torrents are added. You can cap the bandwidth used and the number of torrents being downloaded or seeded at any one time.While I’ve only done a couple of downloads but I’ve found Transmission to be a light, fast and easy to configure bittorrent client for the Mac.

Amazon Kindle e-Book Reader

Amazon announced their e-Book reader, called Kindle, today to much fanfare. I just don’t get it. To me, it seems like a solution in search of a problem.

I like gadgets as much as the next person, but if someone was to give me one of these I’m not sure I’d use it once the novelty wore off. And at $400 the only way I’d use one is if someone gave one to me.

One claimed benefit is that it’s smaller than a paperback book. Great. But even at today’s prices it’s no great loss if I leave a paperback book behind someplace. The Kindle is another electronic device to keep track of and if lost your out $400. (Amazon says you can re-download the books but you’re locked in.)

The technology does seem rather slick even though pictures of the device make it look like it was designed in the 70’s. But all that technology is proprietary and tied to Amazon. If they pull the plug what would happen to the DRM protected files?

The pricing structure is a bit strange. Ten bucks for new releases does offer a significant discount over buying the new hardcover version. But when compared to mass market paperbacks the price isn’t so great. The NYTimes bestseller list for mass market paperbacks (20 books) all had prices of $9.99 or less. In fact fifteen of them were less. Considering the paperbacks need to be printed, shipped, warehoused, and shipped again the electronic versions seem expensive. While there are exceptions, many Kindle books sell for the same or more than the paperback edition for the same title. You can also get magazines, newspapers and selected blogs. But all will cost you, even the blogs that are free on the Internet.

The ability to store 200 or so books is pretty cool. While I may have a hard time justifying carrying 200 books around all the time I can see a benefit in having multiple books. Either for longer trips or to provide variety. It could be beneficial if someone like a salesman or engineer could add their own documents to the book but that seems difficult to do. PDFs have to go through Amazon for conversion (although I suspect conversion software may begin to appear on its own).

Maybe it’s not a solution looking for a problem, maybe it’s a $400 solution to a $40 problem. Am I missing something here? Sony’s e-Book reader isn’t a hot item but its $300 and I pick that as the reason over features.


The OS Quest Trail Log #15:

When I upgraded to Leopard I kept Safari as my default browser so it would open whenever I clicked a link. But I kept using Firefox for almost everything. I liked how fast Safari was when I did fire it up. So this morning I decided to switch over and start using Safari as my primary browser, only going to Firefox when there’s no choice. Safari definitely feels faster and uses less memory.

The Greasemonkey and Browser Sync extensions to Firefox give it an edge in features over Safari, especially when running multiple computers. But, having to stop and start Firefox after using it for extended periods has become a bit annoying, especially when I had to do a force quit for Firefox. Let’s see how far I can go with Safari.

Software Upgrades

There were a lot of software upgrades for me this week. I already wrote about the upgrades to WordPress 2.3.1 and VMWare Fusion 1.1. Then there was the OS X 10.5.1 update for Leopard. I haven’t noticed much of a change since the upgrade. Wireless on my Mac Mini now works when it wakes from sleep mode but that’s about if for noticeable changes.

Adobe released Lightroom 1.3 which includes fixes for Leopard and additional enhancements. I updated my evaluation copy of Lightroom and found that the evaluation counter was reset back to 30 days.

Fetch, from Fetch Softworks, has been updated to version 5.3. It includes improved compatibility with Leopard. I upgraded but rarely use Fetch these days so haven’t used it since the upgrade.

Remote Buddy 1.8 was released. Four fixes, 5 new features, 7 enhancements to an already great remote control program. I didn’t have any problems after the upgrade but I barely scratch the surface of what this app can do.

News & Links

maintain.se: Cocktail 4 for mac no supports Leopard – Cocktail 4 has been released and now supports leopard. Cocktail is a maintenance and UI tweaking tool for the Mac.

News.com: Firefox 3.0 may ship with a slew of serious bugs intact – CNet tech news blog is reporting that Mozilla may ship Firefox 3 with only about 20% of the “blocker” bugs fixed. Blockers are supposed to be serious enough to justify postponing a release.

OmniGroup.com: OmniFocus for the Mac – Described as peronal task management software. Pre-release Beta no available. You can download the beta for free. If you buy before the Jan 8th release you pay half price ($40 – charged immediately)

Techdirt.com: Congress Moves Forward With Required University Subsidies To Napster, Ruckus – TechDirt has an article that’s a rather glaring indictment of our government and how they subsidize failing businesses by attacking education.

TidBITS.com: FileMaker’s Bento: Undercooked and Slightly Fishy – Good overview of Bento and its shortcomings.

arstechnica.com: New bill would punish colleges, students who don’t become copyright cops – The article sums up the incredibly bad idea rather well.

bentotrial.com: Meet Bento — Learn More – Bento is from Filemaker and is described as a personal database that’s Leopard only. A beta preview is available for download.

engadget.com: Vista SP1 release candidate goes out to testers – The headline says it all.

kessels.com: JkDefrag v3.29 – Free open source disk defragmenter for Windows 2000 through Vista was update to version 3.29.

techcrunch.com: gOS PC Sells Out: People Like A Google Focused PC – Seems like the $200 Walmart PC, the one in the oversized case so people think it’s powerfull, appears to be a hit.

tuaw.com: Improve your Stacks with some drawers – Haven’t tried it yet, but sounds like the slickest solution out there.

wsj.com: Google Has Even Bigger Plans for Mobile Phones – The Wall Street Journal is among those reporting Google will bid on some wireless spectrum in January. They report Google is already running a test version of an advanced wireless network.