Wednesday, October 16, 2013

ATTACK OF THE ADWARE:
CNET Has Ruined VersionTracker.com /
Download.com For Mac Users

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Quick Summary: 

It is my emphatic personal advice that you NEVER install the ADWARE 'Extensions' now being foisted on users of VersionTracker.com / CNET Download.com. NEVER. Got that? NEVER.


~~~~~~~~~


UH OH



VersionTracker used to be heaven for Mac users! It was one of the top 5 best Mac websites on the Internet! I have net friends who work there! I used to haunt the place every day! ...Then CNET bought them.

I had heard this was coming. It had happened to the Windows side of Download.com months back. Windows users hated the changes and complained to me about it at our local PC user group. Then this month it hit the Mac side of Download.com, I.E. VersionTracker.com. I learned what the Windows users were complaining about. And I'm not dealing with it. I suggest you don't deal with it either. It's bad.




What Happened:


CNET removed the terrific VersionTracker GUI and changed it to the goofy Download.com GUI. Annoying but livable.


CNET has removed direct download links to applications. That in itself is a pain. But I learned to live with their goofy download pages.


CNET reformatted the New Mac Software page so that it no longer tells you the cost of anything, free or otherwise. That's sneaky and bothers me.


CNET reformatted the New Mac Software page so the app entries are huge and clunky. You get maybe just 10 entries per page. Therefore, you frequently have to go through several pages to get through one day's worth of new app versions. Idiotic. But I've put up with it.


CNET bungled the 'Download Now' buttons such that they have overlaying crap text on them, obscuring the letter 'w'. What is this mess?!




CNET is now gradually removing direct downloads entirely. With time, they'll be gone. THAT I don't deal with.


CNET is instead forcing the download of their own installer app, making downloading of the software you actually want FAR more painful. THAT I don't deal with.


CNET is stuffing into their installer app a pile of ADWARE and a menubar that forces you to use Yahoo as your search engine and home page. AND it surveils your behavior across the Internet.  THAT I don't deal with.


Three strikes, you're out CNET! 

As in: Outrageous.


Let's use an example!


1) Go to VersionTracker.comDownload.CNET.com/Mac/, get forwarded over to the ugly, dysfunctional Download.com page for Mac. Bleh.


2) Flip through the pages. I went through eight pages today to find something from only two days ago. Yawn. Pick something out. For my example I chose the great little app 'A Better Finder Rename' v9.26.


3) Click on the bungled 'Download Now' button. We're sent to that goofy CNET download page... and the download starts. Except  'A Better Finder Rename' does NOT download! Instead, this CNET  installer thing appears: 

"cbsidlm-sp1_0_146a-A_Better_Finder_Rename-ORG-5610.dmg". 

Huh?

4) Double-click the CNET installer thing and we get a window with a generic app in it called "CNET-Installer.app". Is this Trojan Horse malware? Why not? How would we know?! This certainly is NOT what we wanted to download. It's another Bait and Switch and it's scary.


5) Double-click the scary CNET-Installer.app. Immediately on my computer, Little Snitch sets off alarms that this CNET installer thing wants to access a bunch of sites on the Internet, including:


http://cnet.mybrowserbar.com on port 80

http://api.cnet.com on port 80
http://software-files-a.cnet.com on port 80

If I deny these scary call outs, I get an error box that says "Error. Could not download an installer extension"


A WHAT? It wants to download MORE scariness? When I OK the error box, the app quits itself. Gee thanks.


If I approve these scary call outs, I get an app window that looks like this:




Finally we're getting to actually download the file we wanted back at #2. Right? So I click 'Next Step'.


6) What's all this then?




OIC: More scariness!


What we have here is a 'SPECIAL OFFER' with a PRE-checked 'I agree' box for some severe nastiness to which Mac users are almost entirely unaccustomed. ADWARE.


So what's ADWARE?


Here's what Wikipedia.org says:


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adware

Adware, or advertising-supported software, is any software package which automatically renders advertisements in order to generate revenue for its author. The advertisements may be in the user interface of the software or on a screen presented to the user during the installation process. The functions may be designed to analyze which Internet sites the user visits and to present advertising pertinent to the types of goods or services featured there. The term is sometimes used to refer to software that displays unwanted advertisements.
ADWARE analyzes, aka surveils, where its victims goes on the Internet. Based on its surveillance data, it then pushes related advertisements to the victim's web browser.

IOW: You give up your personal privacy rights. Doesn't that sound enticing? Not to me!



THE TERMS


Let's check out the license terms that are pre-checked for you:

I agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Install Extensions by Spigot (Domain Error Assistant in GC, Slick Savings, Ebay and Amazon Shopping Assistant extensions in SF, GC and FF). Make Yahoo! my default provider, home page, and startup option in all browsers.
Therefore:

1) There are some Terms of Service and Privacy Policy legal things to which you're agreeing. They're posted below in the window.


2) You're going to have some Extensions installed.


3) These extensions have something to do with GC and SF and FF, whatever they are, as well as 'Slick Savings', Ebay and Amazon Shopping Assistant. Marketing stuff.


4) You're giving over ALL your web browsers to Yahoo! Yahoo! becomes your default 'provider', whatever that means. Yahoo! will become your home page. Yahoo! will be your startup option, whatever that means. Yahoo! is your Big Brother.


VERY slick.





Let me point out some highlights of the 
'TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF USE FOR EXTENSIONS SUPPLIED BY SPIGOT, INC. FOR CNET, INC." 
(Note that these are only personally chosen highlights for my own personal interest. Read the entire agreement for details.)

Almost all of this whopping long agreement is written to protect the Spigot, Inc. and to point out the rights 'You' give up when 'You' install and use their ADWARE. Check this out:


2) MODIFICATION OF TERMS
We may make changes, modifications, and amendments to the Terms at any time.... The latest Terms may be posted or be available through http://cnet.mybrowserbar.com/terms_mac.html, and You agree that You should always review them prior to using the Extensions so that You may always be aware of what has changed, if anything. If any modification is unacceptable to You, You will cease using the Extensions right away. If you do not cease using the Extensions You will be conclusively deemed to have accepted the change(s) and amendments. Except as stated elsewhere, all amended Terms will automatically be effective as soon as they are initially posted by Us....
 
We are not obligated to provide notice of amendment....

4) ADDITIONAL RIGHTS YOU GRANT
By installing the Extensions... You expressly authorize and request Spigot... to: 
a) act as Your search agent to conduct or process inquiries on Your behalf... and collect relevant information and display information to you; 
b) take actions Spigot deems appropriate to provide the Extensions to You and to act on Your behalf in obtaining information from partners and displaying or otherwise providing that to You; 
c) read and interpret Your search requests and results... offer alternative results and to personalize The Extensions for you; 
d) collect and use information in accordance with Our Privacy Policy.... as amended from time to time.... 
e) start the Extension automatically when you start your computer.... 
f) modify your... browser 
g) communicate with Our servers...
.... 
C) Some or all of our Extensions business affiliates or partners may have their own terms and conditions, terms of use, or end user license agreements, and You agree with and to those in connection with those Extensions and business affiliates of partners, however, in relation to Us if there is any conflict between these Terms which would give You greater rights the provisions of these Terms will govern....
....
10. DISCLAIMER OF WARRANTIES AND PROMISSORY EXTOPPEL
YOUR USE OF ANY SPIGOT SITE, EXTENSION, OR ANY REFERENCE SITE OR THIRD PARTY SERVICE PROVIDERS OR VENDORS IS AT YOUR OWN RISK....
11. LIMITATION OF LIABILITY AND DAMAGES....
WE WILL NOT BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR ANY DAMAGES RESULTING FORM ACCESS TO OR USE OF ANY EXTENSION, SERVICES, SITES OR REFERENCE SITE OR THIRD PARTY SERVICE PROVIDERS OR VENDORS....
. . . . 
22. TERMINATION
You may terminate these Terms by uninstalling the Extensions from your computer and discontinuing your use of the Extensions.
How about we just terminate this 'SPECIAL OFFER' right now!

I suggest you AVOID all such ADWARE installations on ANY computer.



SO NOW WHAT?

If you dare bother with this CNET installer thing, UNcheck the agreement box. Be certain of this. UNCHECK the box.


It is then safe to click the 'Install' button.


One of two things will happen:


A) Either the CNET installer thing will BOMB (I've had this happen to me) and you get nothing (oh joy)...


OR


B) In Step 3 you get the intended application to actually, at long bloody last, download! Phew. It dumps the downloaded file into your user account's Downloads folder.


You can then, in step 4, 'Install Now' if you so choose. I don't choose. I prefer to install it myself. Therefore, I push the 'Later' button. At that point the CNET installer thing Quits itself. Good riddance to scary rubbish.



THE ALTERNATIVES:


A) Other Mac software downloads sites:


1) MacUpdate.com impresses me a lot these days. They have matured into a very nice site with great reviewing system, plentiful informed and helpful users, improved staff, excellent daily software promotions and rather good MacUpdate installation software that doesn't infect you with adware. MacUpdate's site is FAR easier to use and is FAR more user-friendly and FAR more reliable that CNET's.


2) MajorGeeks.com. It tends to be Windows-centric. But the guys there are terrific, they scan for malware, they offer reasonable reviews and features. 


That's my current list of Mac software download sites. But I have provided a list of other Mac friendly websites at the end of the article. Skip ahead...


Occasionally, I still go to VersionTracker.com / Downloads.com to check if MacUpdate.com has missed any recent updates. It happens. If I find something I want, instead of using the horrible CNET installer thing, I go DIRECTLY to the developer's website to download every time. The CNET installer thing is NOT allowed on my computers.


B) Apple's Mac App Store


If you have OS X 10.7 and higher, you have the App Store application in your Applications folder. I find the app itself to be clunky with miniscule 'Help'. It also has terrible Apple tech 'support' I'm sad to say, entirely UN-Apple IMHO. I've let Apple know this fact on more than one occasion. But if you can get App Store to work adequately for you, good on ya. It's nice to know that Apple vet all the apps they allow at their store.


C) Use each application's own integrated updater


These days, most applications have integrated Sparkle, the open source application updating system. It's wonderful. It works. I tend to avoid apps that don't use it or an equivalent. Sparkle integration is free!


D) Check the developer's own website


I do this with Adobe and Oracle freeware crap specifically because it's buggy as hell and frequently has security holes. Therefore, I regularly watch for the latest versions, if I bother to use them at all.



FURTHER MAC SOFTWARE DOWNLOAD SITES:


Here are further alternative sites for downloading Mac software. I'll leave it up to you to evaluate and read about them on the Internet. The list is in no particular order. All of these sites are up and running today. If you have further suggested sites, please post them in the Comments!


ThriftMac

http://www.thriftmac.com

FreeMacWare

http://www.freemacware.com

I Use This

http://osx.iusethis.com

App Donkey

http://www.appdonkey.com

FreeMacAppADay (in Japanese)

http://freemacappaday.com

Softpedia

http://mac.softpedia.com

Mac Downloads (aka DownloadAtoZ)

http://www.downloadatoz.net

Brothersoft

http://mac.brothersoft.com

And of course, if you find any Mac software sites are foisting ADWARE, please post in the Comments! Happy Mac users want to know.



STAY SAFE! 
Don't download or install ADWARE. 
You'll thank me.
You're welcome.

;-Derek



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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The MacHeist 4 Bundle Is Here
Until October 26th:
$29 for $529 of Kewl Mac Apps

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Dear Mac Fanatics,

The MacHeist 4 Mac app bundle is ACTIVE! 

$29 for 12 (to 15) apps, worth $529+

25% of all sales goes to any of a selection of charities! 

http://macheist.com/bundle/t/606079

The bundle offer runs for 10 days, through October 26th at midnight.

This year's apps  include: 

Scrivener
• 1 1/4 year of Evernote Premium
DiskTools Pro
HDRtist
Artboard
Courier
PDF Signer
Radium
4 Steam games
... and MAYBE (probably):
Firetask
Bioshock 2 (!)
Painter Lite

This is THE ultimate, most famous, most money raised for charity bundle on the Mac platform. The more bundles sold, the more apps you get! Deal!

http://macheist.com/bundle/t/606079

(I get a nice perk app for free if you purchase using the link above!)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The heist games in MacHeist 4 were quite enjoyable, all of them having a steampunk theme. They were held over the course of two weeks, ending yesterday. My nick over at MacHeist is 'zunipus'. My avatar this year was an animated GIF I created of Dr. Mabuse disguised as 'The Aristocrat'. (Last MacHeist I created an animated GIF of Dr. Mabuse as 'Weltman' the hypnotist).

The MacHeist 4 games consisted of a total of 4 nano-missions and 4 full missions. Each game that was solved provided a shiny coin worth 1% off the price of the bundle. I was able to snag 10 of 11 coins. I would have had the 11th but for my lack of talent at solving sliding block wire diagram puzzles! I hate them! Ironic IYAM. All of us playing also snagged a slew of prize apps along the way.

Happily, I forgot to log into the MacHeist website before purchasing my copy of the bundle, paying full price. I'm happy as I am so appreciative of the incredible effort and fun put into MacHeist 4. It was well worth the wait.

I believe all the iOS versions of the nano-missions and full missions are still available at the iTunes store. Simply search for 'MacHeist' for the full list. They are all free and fun. Don't forget the 'Agent' app as well for initial orientation.

For fun, here is the message of appreciation I posted to the MacHeist 4 creators:

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I heartily enjoyed every mission! (Except those damnable wiring diagrams. Electricity will be the death of us!) Well done kind sirs and ladies. Well done indeed. 
Please excuse me for reiterating a comment I made in the 'Coins' thread, but I want to make certain that this message reaches those so deserving of great praise: 
I want to state my personal satisfaction at forgetting to log in before purchasing my fine collection of Macintosh apps for $29. My shiny collection of 10 coins would have lowered my purchase price to a mere $26.10, a difference of $2.90! But instead of being a Scrooge, I am gratified to know that I paid full price if only because I highly appreciate MacHeist and all the people who make it possible. I desire to over pay out of gratitude for such fine gaming, web programming, mystery, intrigue and steampunkiness hilarity. It is unusual for me to express passion or affection toward any object or person, due to my strictly proper upbringing; However, I must step outside the bounds of reason to simply and categorically state that: 
I LOVE MacHeist. 
*smooch*smooch*
But please don't tell anyone in the banking district I said so. 
With all due respect and appreciation, 
:-Derek Currie, Esq., aka zunipus
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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mountain Lion Desktop Pictures

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While I was at the Apple discussion groups today, a bunch of new OS X 10.8 users asked 
"Where's the mountain lion picture file for wallpaper?"
Sure enough, Apple oddly didn't provide a new desktop picture of a mountain lion. The lion is still there. So are an elephant, birds, zebras, a frog, but no mountain lion. Oops.

So here are some worthy desktop sized images of mountain lions from the net. They are all available free. Please respect the owner's copyright.

☺☻☺☻☺☻☺ ENJOY! ☻☺☻☺☻☺☻























Friday, June 8, 2012

SSDs: Solid State Device Data Storage

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I enjoy hanging out at ars technica every day to learn new technology and reading tech opinion. This week Lee Hutchinson posted a long but terrific article about how computer memory works with a special focus on SSDs or Solid State Devices. They are the new, fast and expensive way to replace our relatively lame and limping, inexpensive old hard drive technology. The article is six pages long, but well worth reading if you're an inspired and aspiring techno geek.

SSDs use a huge grab bag of techniques to make a computer feel "snappy."
by Lee Hutchinson - June 4 2012, 11:30am EDT

SSD Write Wear

Please note that SSDs do have one major drawback: They wear out due to repeated data writing (called 'write wear') and other factors. Check with the SSD manufacturer regarding the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) or 'write endurance'. You want to buy an SSD with a write endurance of 100,000+ write cycles, as found in SLC (Single-Level Cell) NAND-based flash memory.

IOW, it's time for my favorite nag rant, 
The #1 Rule of Computing:


Make A Backup!


SSDs, unlike hard drives, rarely give any warning before they drop dead. Also unlike hard drives, it is usually impossible to retrieve data from SSDs once they have died. Therefore, if you have no backup, you're toast. You have been warned! You'll thank me later for nagging at you. 

Considering the now dozens of free cloud backup sites on the Internet, including Apple's iCloud, there is zero excuse for not having off-site backups of your critical data.

Tip: 
Encrypt all your data before you back it up to the cloud. I'll discuss why and easy methods of how in future articles over at my Mac-Security blog. For now, I'll simply point out easy to make and use encrypted 'sparse disk' and 'sparse bundle' images. They are available via Apple's free Disk Utility, found in your Mac's Utilities folder. Both 128 and 256 AES encryption are considered impossible to crack as long as you provide them with a long, nasty, randomized password. Just don't lose the password! I have my Macs all set to open a shared sparse disk image at login. I use it to store all my personal data. The sparse disk image resides inside a DropBox folder that is constantly backed up to the Internet. It's a terrific and easy user-side encryption solution for all Mac users. Please check it out HERE and HERE!


:-Derek
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Monday, January 30, 2012

Airport Utility 6.0 vs 5.6 and Firmware 7.6.1

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*REVISED 2012-02-02*


Over at Apple's discussion boards, I have been helping out many people on the bleeding edge who installed Airport Utility version 6.0 and Airport device Firmware Update 7.6.1. I had put together a catch-all list of problems and oddities with Airport Utility 6.0 and the new firmware. At one point I had posted it here for other users to share and enjoy. But instead I have removed it and have decided to post this simple Problem and Solution list I originally posted at CNET:


~~~~~
The Problem: Airport Utility v6.0.

The Solution: Airport Utility v5.6. 

Skip v6.0 entirely. No one needs it. It is merely a hobbled iOS GUI beta test update to Apple Utility AFAIAC. (Possible exception: Its iCloud setting).
~~~~~
The Problem: Apple has confused A LOT of people. The documentation for Airport Utility v5.6 only states its functionality with g Wi-Fi Airport devices. This is WRONG. v5.6 works with all g AND n Airport devices and has FULL functionality, everything missing from v6.0.

The Solution: Apple must update their documentation for Airport Utility v5.6 in order to make it clear that this is the version EVERYONE should be using, NOT v6.0.
~~~~~
The Problem: Airport Utility v6.0 is a hobbled, obtuse and user hostile rendition of Airport Utility, despite the simplified iOS GUI. It doesn't even have a Setup Assistant!

The Solution: Fully functional Airport Utility v6.0.1. Please make it happen quickly Apple.

~~~~~
If you'd like to read lists of features missing from Airport Utility v6.0, I suggest these articles:


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Monday, December 19, 2011

LibreOffice: Worth Using

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A quickie:

Due to the mandatory 'contribution' for Open Source NeoOffice, the Mac optimized version of OpenOffice.org, I have been testing LibreOffice for many months. At this point I can say:

Get it! I like it!

The current stable version is 3.4.4. Today there is also a new 3.5.0 beta 1with a long list of minor updates.

I'm using LibreOffice 3.4.4 with Mac OS X 10.7.2 Lion without the bombing that occurred in many early versions. It has all the features, and niggling annoyances, of OpenOffice. If you're into writing directly into, as well as editing inside a capable but free office suite, this is sweet. The output format is the OpenDocument world standard. But it is capable to doing all the major other format exports as well, including that mess of Microsoft formats. I've found RTF is still the best all around standard, even today, in order to deal with all the legacy word processor users out there.

NeoOffice: Donate if you like it, or compile it from source code yourself. But LibreOffice does a very nice job completely replacing it IMHO. And yes, LibreOffice would like your donation as well!

:-Derek

[What exactly is LibreOffice? It is a branch off the original OpenOffice Open Source project. It is now generally considered to be superior to the ongoing OpenOffice project, which has become bogged down in politics, corporate noise from Oracle and migration of volunteers over to the more ambitious LibreOffice Open Source project. Unlike NeoOffice, LibreOffice is offered in compiled form ready to use. Of the three current flavors of Open Office for Mac users, LibreOffice is consistently at the edge of the progress curve. Its problem in the past has been instability. However, I've found that problem to have largely been solved.]
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