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Tom Briant

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Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Night Roundup of Week's News

Good evening and welcome to another week of MacValley news.

We are on schedule to have Elena-Beth Kaye, our mistress of ceremonies, present on Buying, Selling, and Bartering on the Internet on Wednesday, May 2nd. If you are even the least bit curious about eBay and other on-line auction sites, then this is the presentation you should not miss!

Elena-Beth has issued a warning, though. You can get hooked on this, so please shop responsibly.

For June, our presenter will be me. Your editor. See picture at top of blog. My topic will be the newest addition to the iPad family. I will show you how to incorporate it into your life. How you can do a presentation, as I will be doing, straight from your iPad to the big screen. Which could be your HDTV hooked up to a Apple TV box or a Mac. You can also play games on the big screen, too.

Ken and Ellen Gruber-Snort News

Now That She’s Gone

Written & Performed By Ellen Snortland

“With a name like Snortland, she’d better be good.” 

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Saturday, May 12, 2012 — 3 p.m.

The Coffee Gallery Backstage 

2029 N. Lake Ave.

Altadena, CA 91001


After April 25th, tickets are $15; $20 if purchased at the door, subject to availability.

Arrive early to park and get the best seats! No one under 12 admitted.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Paper is for the bad artist's too.


If you have lots of artistic talent, the above cherry tree is what you can create with Paper. Unfortunately, I don’t.

Tomdrawsafishinthewater-2012-04-20-16-35.jpgWhat I created in Paper is this fish ostensibly swimming in water with seaweed at the bottom.

But Paper is a lot of fun to play with. Other writers, such as Serenity Caldwell of, found themselves frustrated by the limited number of options offered by the app. Even if you buy all the brushes offered from within Paper, you have a total of 5 drawing tools and an eraser. You have only 9 colors


For us incompetent artists, the limited number of choices keeps us going in the right direction. Rather than mess with the color picker, we actually have to draw something.

I did find Paper initially frustrating in that it doesn’t give you a lot of instructions as to how it works. I could say it has three separate modes; the journal mode, the pages mode, and the sketches mode, but that’s just going to confuse you.

Think of it as the best digital version of a paper drawing book or a group of drawing books. I think that’s the easiest metaphor to grasp.


In the above screenshot, you see Paper’s initial screen with three icons at the bottom and the number “53” in the upper right-hand corner.

Let me deal with the bottom icons first. You see a trash can to delete, a grayed-out rightward-curving arrow for sharing your pictures (but not now) and a plus sign for adding things.

You select a journal by tapping it. Now you can delete it with the trash can or add another journal with the plus sign

Notice the white dot with an “i” at the top right-hand corner of the journal. This is how you customize the journal’s cover. You can change the name, add a cover image, and choose between black or cream as the cover’s color.


Now as for that “53” in the upper right-hand corner, that’s the developer’s assistance page. You get a Welcome guide, which shows you a very fast demonstration of Paper’s features, a support page which opens up Safari and links you to community-powered support for Paper, and finally a link to 53’s home page.

So how to open up a journal? You double-tap on a journal’s cover to open it up. Flick your finger from right to left across the pages to move through the open journal. Press the plus sign to add a page, press the trash can to delete a selected page.

But you can’t draw anything on a page! How do you start drawing?!

You open and close individual pages for drawing with your thumb and forefinger. Place them on the page you want to draw on. Now spread them apart, like you wanted to stretch a rubber band on those two fingers. The page opens into a full-screen view. You have a blank sketch pad sheet.

Now to access the drawing tools and color palette. Take one finger, touch the bottom of the screen, and push it forward. The tools and palette come into view. To remove them from sight, drag down on the palette.

Now go to work drawing. Here’s my quick sketch of a coffee-colored cat.


Voila! You’re done. You’ve created bad art on an expensive piece of electronics. Think of it this way…it’s not like you put a big dead shark in a glass tank of formaldehyde like that British artist did. You’re a budding Richard Hockney, who has exhibited work he did on his iPhone, albeit with a more sophisticated piece of software called Brushes.

Anyway, now you want to post your art on FaceBook or e-mail it or even print it. How do you do that?

Remember how you stretched your fingers to make the sketch page full screen? Now you reverse it and pinch your fingers together. Your sketch page collapses from full screen to just a page in the journal.


Now that you’ve returned to the open journal with the pages in view, note the three icons below. Now you have an active middle icon, the Sharing Sheet.


You can send it to a Tumblr blog, a Facebook page, or Twitter. The latest version of Paper lets you save your creation to the Camera Roll in the Photos app. You can also e-mail it across your desk or across the country.

Now your sharing options from the Sharing Sheet will reduce your picture to 1024 x 768 resolution. If you have a new iPad with 2048 x 1536 resolution and want to keep that resolution, you answer is to take screenshots of your creations. Hold down the power button with one hand, and tap the Home button. You’ll hear a shutter click and the screen will flash. You’ll find your full-sized creation in the Camera Roll in Photos.

Now to close the journal, you pinch your thumb and finger across the open journal until it closes. Now you can go to another journal.

What Paper lacks.

Paper doesn’t have a printing option in the Sharing Sheet. You must print from another program that you sent your creation to. Photos does have a print option.

Paper doesn’t allow you to copy and paste between journals.

You can’t change the texture or color of the drawing sheet. No lined or quadrille paper, no vellum. No layers. Folks, it’s a freemium digital sketchbook. Simplicity is the virtue here.

But you do have an UNDO feature for the last 20 brush strokes. Put two fingers together on the sketch pad, Now rotate them counter-clockwise. You’ll see a circle with the legend REWIND appear. As you make the circular counter-clockwise motion, your brush strokes disappear.

And if you rotate clock-wise, they reappear.

This is a test of new blogging software

Hi All:

I’m testing new blogging software here, MacJournal 6 from Mariner Software.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Seven Apple News Items for today

    1.    Rumors from Chinese Web sites continue to suggest that Apple will introduce a 7" Mini iPad. The well-connected  American blogger, Jon Gruber, claims that Apple has a 7.85" Mini iPad in its lab. Whether this makes the leap from lab to your lap remains to be seen. A lot of Apple lab projects have remained just that.
    2.    But on the topic of what you can get right now, CocoaTech has brought out PathFinder 6. Pathfinder 5 was pretty awesome and Pathfinder 6 looks even better. More reports to come as I dig into it. If Finder doesn't cut it for you, you must try Pathfinder on a 30-day free trial.   Pathfinder 6 only works with Snow Leopard and Lion, but these fine folks keep older versions available, too. If you still run 10.4, check it out.
    3.    As for Philipe Starck's announcement that he and Apple have a product in the works….folks, it's a yacht for the Jobs family.  It's perfect for playing Battleship with Larry Ellison and his mega-yacht.
    4.    Apple and Walmart are working together on an Apple store within a Wal-Mart store. Who says Apple is for snobs?
    5.    Google should launch a file synchronization service next week. Citing a leaked draft release from an unnamed source, The Next Web reports that the internet search giant's new file synchronization service will finally be released next week with cross-platform compatibility in tow.
    6.    Mac resellers, such as Mac Connection and Best Buy, report running out of 15" MacBook Pros. This could signal Apple's ending one model and preparing to bring in the new and improved model.
    7.    And finally, Samuel L. Jackson and Zooey Deschanel play themselves in new iPhone 4S commercials. 
And-stop the presses-I have a #8 here. Apple submitted a patent for non-programmers to design iOS apps.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Six Tips for Enhanced Mac Security

Hi Everyone:

This is the draft script I used for my April 2012 presentation on Mac security. You will also find a video in Mac .mov format showing the Powerpoint slides I showed during the presentation

If you want the full presentation in Powerpoint .ppt format, go here to our Meetup page.

Here is the script:

How to Add Security to Your New Mac (or old Mac) in Six Easy Steps.

Hello, I’m Tom Briant, editor of the Voice. Nils Jakobsen won’t be joining us tonight. He got a new job in San Francisco. So, I’m his replacement for tonight.

To begin with, let’s look at a stock MacBook Air that someone just took out of the box and set up. When they press on the power button, it comes to life immediately. Their desktop is ready to go. They don’t share this machine with anyone else. It’s their machine exclusively. When the screensaver comes on, they just press the Enter key to return to the Desktop. Their home Wi-Fi network consists of their MacBook and the wireless router from AT&T U-Verse. They surf the Net and read their e-mail from this one account. Their administrative password is their mother’s name. All is seemingly well.

So what’s wrong here?

Anyone who wants to use that machine just has to press the Power button to reach the Desktop.  It doesn’t matter whether the owner wants them to or not.

If a message comes on that a program wants to be installed, they only have to Press “Yes” to install it. Malware could creep in due to carelessness.

The screensaver doesn’t demand a password to return to the Desktop. If they leave the laptop in plain view, anyone can get into it with just a tap.

At least their home network has security. AT&T put a password on the router in order to use it. If your router doesn’t require a password, install one! You don’t want to share your Wi-Fi with other people you don’t know.

Don’t surf the net and read e-mail from an administrative account! Most malware depends on the owner having not upgraded from the 1 original administrative account they set up in the euphoria of opening the box. If malware hits a standard account without administrative privileges, it’s stymied.

If a hacker wants to attack your computer, they’ll try every word in the dictionary as your password. Don’t make it easy for them by using a common word as a password. Honor Mom by putting her picture up as wallpaper on your Desktop instead.

So, what can you do to harden your Mac against attack?

First, turn off automatic log-in. Go to System Preferences and select the Security & Privacy preference pane.

Now click on the padlock icon in the lower left-hand corner of the preference pane. You’ll be prompted for an administrator password-your Mom’s name-to make changes.

Disable automatic login for all accounts on this computer.

Require an administrator password to make changes in system preferences with lock icons.

Log out after a specified period of inactivity.

Change the login window to show fields for the user name and the password.

Second, Require password as soon as possible after sleep or screensaver begins.

Third, stop using that original administrative account to surf the net or read e-mail. You’re most vulnerable when doing those activities.

You may think that you have to set up a new standard account and enter all your serial numbers for your software. You may not know where you put those licenses. What are you going to do?

Here’s what to do. Set up a second administrative account with a secure password.  For a minute, you’ll have two administrative accounts. Then you will go into Users & Groups (or Accounts in previous OS X versions) to change your old administrative account into a standard one.

You’ll still have your data intact. You won’t need to enter license information that you can’t put your hands just yet.  You just won’t be able to install software from that account so easily. And that’s a good thing.

Fourth, change your passwords regularly.

Fifth, harden your Wi-Fi router. Don’t use an unsecured router. If you want to share Wi-Fi with someone, give him or her the password and tell him or her not to spread it around.

At least two men with unsecured Wi-Fi routers have been arrested on child pornography charges by the Feds. It took them some time to convince the government they weren’t total criminal slime. They could have avoided the problem by password protecting their Wi-Fi routers. It turns out their neighbors borrowed some bandwidth to download child porn.

Sixth, tell Safari not to open “safe” downloads. There are no safe downloads. You have to look at them first.

Go into Safari’s preferences and uncheck that preference.

Along with that, you want to go into the Finder and check the Advanced preference to show all file extensions. One common malware trick is to string two file extensions together. You see the name of the file as “cutebunny.jpg” but the real name is “cutebunny.jpg.tgz” If you let Safari automatically decompress that file, who knows what might happen!

If I may, I’d like to add a number 7 tip. Regularly check for software updates from Apple.  That is #2 on the National Security Agency’s list of Mac security tips.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Trojans Infecting Macs and Dealing with them

There are a couple of new Trojan Horses going around that are quite nasty.  The one that is receiving the most press is called Flashback.

Article: Mac Flashback Trojan: Find Out If You’re One of the 600,000 Infected

This article will tell you how to find out if you are already infected by the Flashback Trojan, and it tells where to go to find instructions on how to eliminate this malware if you are.
(Don't be too upset by the title of that article. I've yet to hear a single firsthand account of someone being infected by Flashback.)

A simpler method (i.e. non-command line) than the F-Secure steps to check to see if you are infected by Flashback is this little app that runs the test for you. It just posts a dialog that says whether or not you're infected,  It does not make any attempt to remove the trojan. You can download it here:

Apple has already pushed out an update to Java that includes a patch to make your Mac immune to Flashback.
Once you either find out that you aren't infected with Flashback, or you find out that you are infected with Flashback and you eliminate it, it would be a very good idea to go ahead and update Java to acquire immunity to Flashback.

Java, by the way, is a programming language that is used for applications and advanced features on Web sites. It's use has become very rare. If you think that it is unlikely that you even have a need for Java, it is possible to completely disable Java so that it can be totally eliminated as a vector of malware infection on your computer.:

If you don't know if you need Java for anything...I recommend that you disable it.  If a program or a Web site subsequently gives an error message and refuses to run...reinable it.  It's not a difficult or immutable act.

There is another Trojan Horse going around that is carried via a Microsoft Office document. Don't confuse this with the Flashback Trojan. Apple has already pushed out a patch to protect you against this Trojan also.
Apple updated XProtect with a definition to catch the Office vulnerability. They refer to it as "OSX/Mdropper.i." This should have happened automatically in the background on your Mac if your are running OS X 10.6 or higher (i.e. Snow Leopard or Lion).

(There is no version of XProtect included in versions of OS X prior to OS X 10.6/Snow Leopard.)
To find out which version of XProtect your Mac has installed, and when it was last updated you can download this free widget:

The latest Mdropper.i update came around April 2.

In addition, if you have Microsoft Office installed, it's a good idea to install the Microsoft updaters for Office. These include a patch against this Trojan also:

Now, the question that always comes up is: Do I need to install anti-virus (AV) software at this point?
Most ordinary Mac users do completely without any AV software, and yet you just about never hear about a Mac user being infected with Malware.   There are still no actual viruses (defined as self-propogating software) for the Macintosh.  I’ve told you, above, how to deal with the latest malware threats without the need for AV software.  So not much has changed that would require that we all run out and purchase AV software.

However, as attorneys we are used to engaging in “best practices.”  I’ve run what is usually the most highly rated (in magazine comparison tests) AV software program for the Mac for over a decade:
Intego’s VirusBarrier ($50)

just to be able to tell clients that I am running AV software.  (Clients don’t understand that a Macintosh isn’t the same thing as a Windows computer.  And I don’t want to bother to try explaining the difference to them.)
In all that time VirusBarrier has never actually protected me from anything of any consequence.  While VirusBarrier is excellent, some users have (rarely) reported that it can cause nasty software conflicts (as can any AV software that runs constantly in the background).  And since VirusBarrier always running in the background on your Mac, even though it is mostly unnoticable, there is some (minor) level of performance degridation (and once again, this is true of any AV software that is always running in the background).

So, instead, you may want to download and regularly use this free product:

ClamXav (free)

ClamXav doesn’t run constantly in the background like most other AV programs.  (So it shouldn’t cause any software conflicts or slowdowns.)  It can, however, be set to run on a schedule.  It is easy to use, and it is comprehensive.  So it is a good choice to install on your Mac, even if AV software really isn’t necessary for your Mac.
Randy B. Singer
Co-author of The Macintosh Bible (4th, 5th, and 6th editions)

Macintosh OS X Routine Maintenance

Monday, April 2, 2012

Brief rundown of my Security presentation 4/4/2012

Someone asked what I would cover in my presentation Wednesday night.. Here is a rundown of topics:

    1.    Disable automatic log-in. It lets anyone, from a curious 5 year-old looking for a new toy, a thief looking for Social Security and credit card numbers, or even your cat walking over the keyboard, disrupt your work at the very least and make off with your Mac at most.
    2.    Make sure your screensaver is password-protected. You went to all the trouble to make it hard to get into your Mac, so don’t leave the backdoor open!
    3.    How do you block entry via the log-in screen and password? Go into the Security & Privacy preference pane and also the Accounts (also known as Users & Groups) preference pane.
    4.    Every article on Internet Security (both Mac & Windows) has stressed using a non-administrative account to surf the Web and read your e-mail. The administrative account is for maintenance purposes, such as installing software.
    5.    But Apple’s Mac Setup Program starts us with an administrative account! Oh, what are we to do? Well, come Wednesday night and I’ll tell you how to solve this problem with a minimum of pain and grief. No Terminal work, I promise!
    6.    Change your password regularly. When you change your oil, change your passwords (if not more frequently).
    7.    Make sure your Wi-Fi router is protected with a strong password. Don’t use a naked router! You are liable if someone uses your bandwidth for criminal activities. Read the manual for instructions or look on your router manufacturer’s Web site if you lost the manual.
    8.    Make sure your Finder shows the full name of a downloaded file. Go to the Finder’s preferences. Under the Advanced settings. you’ll see Show all File Extensions.
    9.    While we’re on that file subject, turn OFF Safari’s preference for automatically opening “safe” downloads. THERE ARE NO SAFE DOWNLOADS! You need to look at them in the Finder showing their full filename.

That covers my presentation in very condensed form. If you think of more, e-mail me. The address is

Tom Briant
Editor, MacValley Voice



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