Monthly Archives: July 2011

DIY Home Security, Part II: Hardware Installation

Previously I posted that I was installing my own home security system using DSC’s Power Series (rather than using newer, flashier protocols such as Z-Wave of Zigbee).  Here in Part II of the series, I’ll show the steps required in installing the hardware of a DSC PowerSeries 1616 (also applicable to models 1832 and 1864).

DIY Home Security Series Contents

  • Part I: System Selection
  • Part II: Hardware Installation you are here
  • Part III: Programming
  • Part IV: Interfacing with Automation (coming soon)

Read more »

Mac OS 10.7 Lion Upgrade Uninstalls Java Virtual Machine [Update: Download Link]

While it has long been known that Apple would no longer actively support the Java Virtual Machine on Mac OS X, it was not necessarily clear that the Mac OS 10.7 Lion installer would uninstall the JVM supplied with previous releases of Mac OS 10.  It appears, however, that that is the case, as users upgrading to Lion are left without a JVM.

Apparently the design going forward is for the OS to prompt the user to install the JVM when trying to run a Java application (such as Adobe’s applications which make use of the JVM).  However as noted by Adobe this approach doesn’t appear to be bulletproof as some users are simply left with an application that won’t launch or an application that won’t close correctly.

Indeed, when I tried to log-in to a Juniper Networks SSL VPN that uses the “Host Checker” applet via Safari 5.1, the applet failed to run and no option was provided to install the JVM; attempting to log-in via Firefox resulted in a “missing plug-in” page, which resulted in the OS prompting me to download the JVM as designed.

If you think you may need to install the JVM for Mac OS 10.7, I suggest following Adobe’s suggested procedure:

  1. Go to Applications > Utilities > Java Preferences.
  2. Open the Java Preferences.
  3. If Java is not installed, you receive the following message:
    “To open “Java Preferences,” you need a Java runtime. Would you like to install one now?”
  4. Click Install and accept the license agreement. The Java runtime is downloaded and installed.

Update: Users unable to get Lion to prompt them to install the JVM can download it manually from Apple.

Apple Provides Solutions For Troublesome Lion Upgrade Scenarios

Until today, Apple had indicated that Mac OS 10.7 “Lion” would be a Mac App Store exclusive, leaving those with limited internet bandwidth, users of Mac OS 10.5 Leopard or prior, or those installing onto a fresh hard drive out of luck.  I previously described my disdain for Apple forcing this issue, and today Apple has provided solutions.  Starting in August, Apple will sell a $69 USB thumb drive from Apple Retail stores.

Users who do not have broadband access at home, work or school can download Lion at Apple retail stores and later this August, Lion will be made available on a USB thumb drive through the Apple Store® (www.apple.com) for $69 (US).

Addressing the issue of installing Lion on a fresh hard drive, Apple has introduced Lion Internet Recovery for the new MacBook Air and Mac Mini as well as future Macs.

If you happen to encounter a situation in which you cannot start from the Recovery HD, such as your hard drive stopped responding or you installed a new hard drive without Mac OS X installed, new Mac models introduced after public availability of OS X Lion automatically use the Lion Internet Recovery feature if the Recovery HD (Command-R method above) doesn’t work. Lion Internet Recovery lets you start your Mac directly from Apple’s Servers.

With positive reviews already coming in, an incredible price point, and the main installation issues now out of the way, Lion appears to be a must-have for Mac owners.

Briefly: Lion To Launch This Week: Tomorrow? [Updated: Yes]

It appears as though the stars are finally aligning for Mac OS 10.7 “Lion” to launch this week. Apple Stores have reportedly received the Golden Master copy of Lion to load on demonstration computers, and AppleInsider expects that the launch will occur tomorrow (Wednesday) to coincide with a MacBook Air refresh.

Update: During Apple’s Q3 2011 Conference Call today, Apple disclosed that Lion would indeed be launching tomorrow via the Mac App Store.

iUsers For iPad Provides Multiple iPad Profile Support

Once again the iOS jailbreak community is providing serious functionality to the iOS experience before Apple.  iUsers is a jailbreak feature coming soon that enables multiple user profiles, keeping things like contacts, phone numbers, application settings, and the like segregated for each user that logs in.  Below is a youtube demonstration.

As you can see, the jailbroken method is a bit kludgy, requiring essentially a reboot of the device. With many iPads being shared “family” devices, Apple would be good to provide native support in a more streamlined method.

Credit to Engadget/BlogdoiPhone for the tip.

Virtualizing Telephony Services Using Twilio

My company recently underwent a datacenter move which gave us the “opportunity” to move many of our IT and software architecture into a highly virtualized environment.  The goal of our IT director before the move was to have everything possible virtualized so that the move could be streamlined (beyond the fact that virtualization is just a good thing to do in many other senses).

One of the “servers” we had running was an old telephony server that had physical line cards installed in PCI slots.  Our IT director made a decision early on that there was no way this old junky computer was going to clutter his brand new datacenter — the services it provided would have to be re-written.  The software re-engineering fell to me, and at the suggestion of the IT director we chose to work with cloud telephony company Twilio for the telephony needs. Read more »

Consumer Reports: Repair vs Replacing Computers

Consumer Reports August 2011 issue deals with a question that many computer users end up asking themselves: is it better to repair or replace a broken computer? The report found that it is almost always better to repair than replace within the first two years of a computer’s life.  During years 2-4, you should consider repairing if the repair follows the 50% rule: replace the product if the repair will cost more than 50% of the replacement cost.  After 4 years, the report recommends replacement.  The article did not differentiate between laptop and desktop computers.

Also included in the article is a list of some of the most reliable computer brands.  Topping the list is Apple for desktops and Acer and Toshiba for laptops.  Only Gateway is singled out as being a particularly repair-prone brand of desktop.

An interesting note was that while Consumer Reports generally steered consumers away from extended warranties, they did suggest consumers consider extended warranties for computers.  Indeed, computers had the highest rates of repair of any of the electronics categories surveyed: 36% for laptops and 32% for desktops.  Only side-by-side refrigerators matched the laptop repair rate, with other style refrigerators scoring much better repair rates.

Final Space Shuttle Launch Planned For Today (Atlantis, STS-135) [Update: Launch Video]

Today, the Space Shuttle Atlantis is set to lift off (weather permitting) on STS-135 — the final mission of the space shuttle.  The space shuttle program has experienced some of the worst tragedies, killing more Astronauts than any other NASA program with the losses of the Challenger and Columbia orbiters. Still, the program has highlighted some of the best the space program has to offer.

During the Space Shuttle’s missions, we saw great advancements made.  Here are some that strike me.

  • SpaceLab Missions: SpaceLab was a laboratory that was installed into the space shuttle’s cargo bay.  There were 22 SpaceLab missions.
  • Hubble Telescope: The shuttle not only deployed Hubble in 1990, but then recaptured and repaired it in 1993 when it was found to be near-sighted due to a mirror grounding error (amongst other issues).  The Hubble Space Telescope is one of the NASA’s great observatories.
  • Missions to MIR: The space shuttle was the first NASA space vehicle to visit and dock with the Russian space station MIR.  The docking demonstrated then-unprecedented international cooperation and thawing of cold-war hostilities.
  • The International Space Station: The Space Station has been a key player in constructing and servicing the International Space Station (ISS).  Without the Space Shuttle, I dare say the ISS would never have existed.

STS-135 is scheduled to launch today, July 8, at 11:26 AM weather permitting.  According to NASA, Atlantis will carry the Raffaello multipurpose logistics module to deliver supplies, logistics and spare parts to the International Space Station. The mission also will fly a system to investigate the potential for robotically refueling existing spacecraft and return a failed ammonia pump module to help NASA better understand the failure mechanism and improve pump designs for future systems.

Update: After a brief pause of the countdown at 31 seconds, Atlantis successfully launched into space.

Another Zero-Day iOS Vulnerability Exploited via JailBreakMe.com

JailBreakMe.com is once again hosting a benevolent zero-day exploit of Apple’s iOS systems.  The exploit, written by veteran iPhone Dev-Team member and college student @comex, can run against the latest patched versions of Apple’s iOS devices, including:

  • iPad1: 4.3 through 4.3.3
  • iPad2: 4.3.3
  • iPhone3GS: 4.3 through 4.3.3
  • iPhone4: 4.3 through 4.3.3
  • iPhone4-CDMA: 4.2.6 through 4.2.8
  • iPod touch 3g: 4.3, 4.3.2, 4.3.3
  • iPod touch 4g: 4.3 through 4.3.3

This is the third time jailbreak methods have been made available online.  While jailbreaking in of itself typically is harmless, the methods used — especially when initiated from a browser — can lead to malware.

The first jailbreakme site, released in 2007, used a TIFF vulnerability to jailbreak iOS 1.1.1.  Apple patched the vulnerability in iOS 1.1.2, though users who installed the jailbreak would have already received a patch to protect them.  The second iteration of the site was released last year and exploited a flaw in Adobe PDF rendering in iOS 3 and 4.  Apple patched the bug with iOS updated 4.0.2 and 3.2.2.  This latest round also uses a PDF vulnerability in iOS 4.3.3, and a patch is supplied by comex via the PDFPatch2 utility via Cydia.

Apple needs to get its act together when it comes to security.  Zero-Day vulnerabilities like this are serious and time is quickly running out before major malicious exploits are written.

First Solid Rumor Of True iPhone 5

Today, the Wall Street Journal issued the first report that makes me think that we are going to see a ‘iPhone 5′ rather than an ‘iPhone 4S’.

Previous reports have suggested that the next iPhone will have a better camera (8 megapixels) and have an A5 processor as well as have support for both CDMA and GSM built in to one package, however the packaging would be very similar to the iPhone 4.  Apple provided a very similar update with the iPhone 3GS which saw a faster processor, better camera, and faster network speeds, but minimal form factor changes when compared to the iPhone 3G.

Today’s report, however, suggests that the next iPhone will be “thinner and lighter” than the iPhone 4.  The product is scheduled to be released in the third quarter depending on the ability of Hon Hai to successfully manufacture the product, which is said to be “complicated and difficult to assemble.”