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Scott Nolan
13 March 2016 @ 08:42 am
I am starting this year's garden a little closer to the right time this year....

Vegetable Garden, 2016
Scott Nolan
It looks like some extortionists hijacked the transmissionbt.com website, and published for about 36-48 hours a fake version of Transmission (bitTorrent client) that claims to be v2.90 but is actually RansomWare that will encrypt your files and demand payment for decryption keys. Don't use Transmission v2.90 and be careful out there.


I guess Mac OS X has finally achieved mainstream status if the bad guys are really targeting it now. Prior fake malware has all been posing as illegal/unlicensed copies of commercial software, so far as I know this one is a first to target through freeware.
Scott Nolan
04 November 2015 @ 02:02 pm
I am testing a new (4th generation, Oct 2015) AppleTV as a replacement for my 2nd generation AppleTV (Sep 2010).
My initial impression is overwhelmingly positive! I am finally replacing the older AppleTVs entirely.

I was an early adopter, got my first AppleTV (Silver, ran stripped version of Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger with FrontRow) when they first announced the device in 2007, mostly as an experiment in bringing internet content (YouTube, iTunes Movie rentals, Flickr) to my big TV screen. I liked it so much I hacked it to do Boxee and Xbox Media Center (XBMC) and bought one with a 160GB drive a few months later for the basement recreation room.

When the little black 2nd generation AppleTVs came out in 2010 I was skeptical, but experimented again, and at first was not impressed. The move to iOS without any applications was a hindrance, and I had come to rely on XBMC seeing my big media share of my own library of content... Then in January 2011 they were jailbroken and XBMC and Boxee and Nito were all available and I switched to 2nd generation AppleTVs with every TV... and there I stayed...

The 3rd generation (2012) AppleTV, and it's faster revision (2013) did not interest me as they could not be jailbroken; and without XBMC access to my growing library of media served from an old Mac Mini, they simply were not viable.

In 2014 I started looking at Roku as an alternative... I really like iTunes access (no other digital streaming catalog has closed captioning as good as iTunes) and AirPlay had become essential... but Roku had much more stable XBMC and Plex clients for seeing my huge media library and they came with support for Amazon Prime as well (something AppleTVs still don't do). Roku3 remains a top recommendation from me.

I am thrilled that the new AppleTV (Oct 2015) finally gives me the best of almost all worlds. I downloaded the free app Plex and with Plex Media Center (free download) loaded on my old Mac Mini my huge library is available on the latest/greatest AppleTV that does AirPlay, HBO Now, iTunes, Hulu, and Netflix. I see no reason (other than budget) not to replace all the old 2nd generation AppleTVs with the new ones. So now what do I do with three hacked AppleTVs?

Huge honorable mention goes to Roku who has two models now (Roku3 and Roku4) that are simply astounding streaming media players - they too do Plex out of the box, they also do HBO Now, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube. The Roku does not have Apple's App ecosystem, and it does not have AirPlay support nor iTunes media support; but it does do Amazon Prime, and is a little cheaper, and has the amazing headphones jack on the remote feature that is spectacular.

4th Generation AppleTV Out of the Box experience:
1) I love that it automatically pairs with an existing iOS device (iPhone/iPad) to grab AppleID and avoid some typing manually through the cumbersome remote controlled on screen keyboard.
2) I love that it detected wired ethernet and automatically set that up correctly even after seeing Wi-Fi on my iPhone.
3) I love that some apps (YouTube) send you to a website on a laptop/desktop/tablet/phone with a simple code to avoid some typing manually through the cumbersome remote controlled on screen keyboard your long login/password to YouTube/Google.
4) I love being able to move the apps around so that Plex, HBO Now, Computers, and Search are at the top of the screen instead of the much more infrequently used iTunes Movies, iTunes TV, iTunes Music and Photos.
5) I love the new remote, much easier to swipe through menus and settings in general, though I do miss the Remote app on my iPhone working with the AppleTV (that was better still, and made typing in passwords much faster).
6) I HATE that connecting to Computers for Home Sharing, connecting to HBO Now and most other accounts requires the manual remote control based hunt and peck username and password keystroke entry - this is a HORRIBLE experience and needs to be beaten out of every interface. It would be acceptable with the Remote App working again, or any BlueTooth keyboard - but neither is an option yet... and it is painful to set up accounts.
7) Switching from Kodi/XBMC to Plex is a big change, but not as big as I was worried about - and it turns out to be VERY pleasant; the ordering of shows, the marking of what was watched and remains unwatched is a breeze through Plex Media Server's web based software (on the computer/server) and the Plex client is fast and beautiful and easy to use. Huge improvement over XBMC Gotham (13.2) that I was using.
8) I love that AirPlay once again works from those devices I foolishly upgraded to iOS 9 before updating my old AppleTVs (iOS 9 devices cannot AirPlay display to older AppleTVs any more).
9) I have not figured out how to load key features from the AppleTV remote into my Logitech universal remote yet - and I need to at least get the basics set up there - but for now we have two remotes in use.

I may go to a mixed AppleTV 4 and Roku 4 household; because I love AirPlay, gaming apps, and iTunes Media on AppleTV; and I love Amazon Prime and remote based headphones on Roku.
Current Mood: thrilled
Current Music: Agnes Obel: Aventine
Scott Nolan
02 November 2015 @ 09:26 am
Quick reminder to all those in Virginia; it is election day tomorrow - state and local offices will be holding elections in every district in the state. Don't forget to go vote.

Where do I vote? https://voterinfo.sbe.virginia.gov/PublicSite/Public/FT2/PublicPollingPlace.aspx

What is on my ballot? https://voterinfo.sbe.virginia.gov/PublicSite/Public/FT2/PublicElections.aspx
Scott Nolan
First really serious hack to impact iOS devices that are not jail-broken manages to inject spyware into several apps that were actually in the Apple App store. There are several good articles covering XcodeGhost and the hacked apps that may have been developed with XcodeGhost. One of the better written ones is on ArsTechnica, of course...

Apple Scrambles After 40 Malicious XcodeGhost Apps Haunt App Store

This impacts China more than most, as most of the apps are Chinese language apps targeting people in China; but there are a few reputedly infected apps that are in global use, including the Mercury web browser!

That hits home, as I have been using Mercury on iOS (iPad and iPhone) for a long time as an alternative to Safari (I use several browsers with different settings and permissions to have different privacy modes). The news that Mercury might be spying on me is more than a little frightening.

The good news, I don't trust any iOS browser to do anything - I never save passwords, rarely allow them to use location, etc.. so the amount of information gathered is limited to the use of the browser itself.

Also - I am using Mercury 9.1.0; and my firewall is not seeing any traffic to (the IP address of init.icloud-analysis.com where the reports are allegedly going); so I am hopeful that that version of Mercury is not infected (but there is no guarantee). I am pretty sure the newer versions released after May 31st, 2015 are infected (that is when Mercury was briefly unavailable in the App Store and only resumed under a different publisher than original versions).

Timeline of Mercury so far (some google searching):
2009/08/24 iLegendSoft registered their website
2009/12/23 Mercury is already released and reviews are beginning to appear
2012/07/27 mercury-browser is out and website launched
2014/12/21 Mercury 8.9.4 released, still with plenty of info - probably a good version
2015/04/29 Mercury 9.0.7 released
2015/05/06 Mercury 9.0.10 released
2015/05/?? Mercury 9.1.0 released
2015/05/31 Mercury disappears from app store
2015/07/06 Mercury 9.2.1 announced on Facebook - likely hacked - new publisher "Lucy Ding" instead of iLegendSoft
2015/09/18 XcodeGhost hack unveiled - Mercury on the list of infected apps according to some news outlets

Until we know more, do NOT install Mercury, and it is probably best to figure out what private information you have entered into Mercury and clear that if you are not certain it is safe (change passwords, and the like).

It is a testimony to how good the walled garden of the app store is, that this is really the first serious hack of un-broken iPhones and iPads since their debut several years ago. That is amazing.
Current Mood: concerned
Scott Nolan
11 September 2015 @ 07:48 pm
In case you missed the Apple Keynote last Wednesday, September 9th, 2015, there was a segment of it I would like to call attention to; the segment covering the upcoming 4th generation AppleTV (available in late October 2015). This interface is what TV needs to be!

AppleTV section starts about 52 minutes into the overall keynote and runs to the 83 minute mark.

Tim Cook introduces the new AppleTV running tvOS, and states that the future of television is Apps , and backs that up by pointing out that we already spend more time on tablets, smart phones, and laptops than we do on televisions.

This new AppleTV uses an app store like the iPhone or iPad, and the Apps allow for far more immersive experiences than simply watching linear video streams. The Major League Baseball app demo is particularly amazing at demonstrating the abilities to do multiple things at once all while watching your game. Games, shopping, vacation planning as a family, real estate research on the big screen are just the beginnings of what is possible; and I think this is the way television is heading.
Current Mood: Excited
Scott Nolan
So, my own fault for not reading the fine print, but one of my favorite features of iOS vanishes with iOS 8.4 - the "home sharing" of music on a single WiFi network. Specifically, iOS 8.4 clients can no longer connect to a shared music library on the local network for Music playback (Video playback still works fine).

Engadget claims that Eddie Cue of Apple tweets that home sharing will be back in iOS 9 (later this Fall), hopefully that is accurate, as many of us use home sharing to play each other's music in one household.


https://manuals.info.apple.com/MANUALS/1000/MA1596/en_US/ipod_touch_user_guide.pdf (search the PDF for how to turn on home sharing of videos in iOS 8.4)
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Scott Nolan
Wow, the article/essay linked below is powerfully and well written. For what it's worth, I have always hated "Gone With the Wind" myself, and "Braveheart" too.

Yes, you’re a racist… and a traitor. - an essay on Medium.com by John E. Price

Here is another one, also beautifully written, and with the keys to the salvation of our nation: the author's principal who took the time to educate the author on the impact of his own insensitivity saved him from a lifetime of ignorance! May we all step up and take the time to learn and to have compassion and sensitivity to our fellow human beings and Americans.

Heritage, Hate and and the Juvenilization of Free Speech - an message of hope from Stephen Ingram

I think it is absolutely critical that we all take away from that the simple fact that patiently and directly addressing racism with thoughtful questions can help those ignorant of the impact of their actions to make a change in their life and the lives of others if they want to. It does not address the willfully ignorant, but how do we know who is willing to change and does not realize it unless we take the time to try? I know this takes enormous courage, and perhaps it was easier for a school principal in a position of authority than it will be for most of us, but I think more of us should try.

I think we can even generalize a call to action; we should all be calling out bad behavior promptly, and using social pressure to induce members of society to have a little respect and compassion for others.
Current Mood: sad
Scott Nolan
30 May 2015 @ 08:41 am
Woot! corn, peas, beans, basil, cucumbers, and melons are all sprouting; and I planted beet seeds. Details and photos on the blog:

Scott Nolan
07 April 2015 @ 03:09 pm
I have been wishing to subscribe to HBO directly for years, and living without HBO entirely or visiting friends to see the excellent shows without paying for a hugely overpriced bundle of crap from a cable company... and finally HBO Now is available. It launched in Apple's iTunes App stores earlier today (April 7th, 2015) and will allow HBO content in AppleTV, iPad, and iPhone (possibly iPod Touch as well). Although my AppleTVs are older, I am hoping I can airplay the content or update them to play the new service. Everyone expects HBO Now to become available on Roku in about 3 months, and other devices will follow after that. This is a huge win for "cord-cutters" who want HBO's excellent programming and don't want to wait until the shows come out on DVD a few years after they first show.

I wish it was a little cheaper (the stand alone service will be $14.99/month) and you have to already have internet access and a device (iPad, iPhone, AppleTV - eventually Roku, etc) - but this is exactly what I have been asking HBO for, so time to pony up and subscribe.

To get HBO Now for yourself, open up iTunes on any Mac or Windows computer, and go to the App Store, search for "HBO Now" and download the app. On your IOS device, install and start the "HBO Now" app, and sign into your iTunes account. It looks like billing will be through Apple iTunes Store, at least initially (though HBO has you sign up as well - so I suspect that may separate some day).
Current Mood: happy