Charles Moore's Mailbag

DRM in Mac OS X, Ubuntu and BSD as Alternatives to OS X, the Power of Eudora, and More

Charles Moore - 2008.01.14 - Tip Jar

Mac OS X Copy Protection

From Scott:

Hi,

My belief is that Apple may be imposing a scheme in which OS X will only run on authentic Apple hardware [see Is DRM in Mac OS X Anything to Fear?, ed.]. All too often people violate the terms of the OS X license by installing it on non-Apple hardware. (No, taking an Apple logo off a dead iMac G3 and putting it over the HP logo doesn't count as Apple-branded).

I don't think they will get as extreme as WGA, only because there has been much criticism of WGA, which generates some "false alarms" at times from what I have heard. However, I do think they will try to cut down on the number of people who hack non-Apple hardware to run OS X, and if there is more to this patent than I think, they will also look for those who try to run the same copy (non-family pack) on all of their machines.

If there is a system in which serials are checked, a good idea may be to call Apple and tell them which computer's serial number is being deactivated. For example, if your iMac's hard drive dies and you're going to use the retail copy of Leopard you bought on your laptop, they could clear the system and also make it so that the system would not reinstall on that iMac by blocking its serial number in the database. Of course, this could be undone "x" amount of days later by calling them back, making it so the laptop would be the "crippled" one and the iMac once again the machine for use with that particular copy of the system.

Human interaction always makes transactions more secure, in my opinion, and I think Apple would be wise to do this if they implemented some sort of serial check system because they have, in my opinion, always been user-friendly in every aspect from tech support to the interface itself. It wouldn't surprise me if Apple has a system this easy accessible via both Web and phone (the phone would be mandatory for those whose hard drives have died altogether).

Scott

Hi Scott,

You are a lot more tolerant of DRM than I am.

I wouldn't do it myself for a variety of reasons, of among which ethics would appear somewhere in the list, but I do have one good friend running Leopard on a Pentium 4 Dell tower, and it works surprisingly well - a lot faster than on this 17" PowerBook G4!

If the DRM was of limited scope to prevent that, it wouldn't affect me one way or the other, although my friend - a longtime Mac fan and evangelist - would likely jump ship rather than carrying on to get a Macintel laptop.

However, philosophically I resent any form of DRM, and as I indicated in the article, IMHO if one can't stomach the proprietary restrictions, the honorable alternative is to go Open Source and run Linux. I hope Apple doesn't push me to that.

Charles

Apple's DRM Patent for Mac OS X

From Neohaven:

I would like to point out, once again, that the said DRM is to restrict to specific hardware platforms.

Hackintoshes are not a valid hardware platform for Apple. Thus they want to block it out, which raises no concerns on my side. We are not talking about a WGA-style authentication at all.

Parts [0012] to [0016] near the end of the [patent application] talk about how one would differentiate an Apple computer from a standard Intel PC.

Go check it out, you will see it's a very valid concern, and it has nothing to do with unauthorized copies of software installed on genuine Intel Macs.

Yours,
Neohaven

Hi Neohaven,

I hope you're right and that it's limited to that, but I still don't want Apple checking up on me, even though I haven't the slightest intention of trying to install the Mac OS on a Hackintosh or PC box.

It's a matter of principle. I despise the whole concept of DRM snooping.

Charles

DRM in OS X to Cut Apple's Losses

From Bill:

Hi,

I don't think you're riding the right horse on this one.

How much revenue does Apple lose each year because people "bootleg " their software? OS X is Unix based. That means it can be hacked and installed on non-Apple hardware. (My neighbor did it, and he had never used a Mac before his little experiment.) So how about hacking iTunes or Final Cut? Possible? How much money would Apple lose then? If you were to invest in Apple computer and were told they give away their best product, would you do it?

How can people be sure this software is any good? "I got it from my buddy who got it from his cousin's next door neighbor's best friend." And who the hell says I can't give it to you? "improvements" and all.

Well, I wouldn't want it, because you have no certainty that it has not been tampered with.

DRM software is legitimate. It allows Apple to protect their legitimate work.

Bill

Hi Bill,

We're far apart on this issue. People can agree to disagree in good faith.

Maybe your neighbor will like the Mac OS so much that he'll eventually buy a real Mac. Even if he doesn't, as you say, he'd never used the Mac OS before, so did Apple lose anything? Not as far as I can see.

It's like the RIAA, the SIAA (formerly SPA), and others basing their purported "losses" from piracy on the number of tunes downloaded or estimated percentage of software apps installed without authorization. In a pig's eye! I doubt that the real losses would be 10% of what they contend in terms of people who would have purchased the application if they hadn't been able to download (which incidentally is still legal in Canada for casual private use) or pirate it.

My copy of Leopard is bought and paid for and installed on a real Mac, but I wouldn't tolerate DRM snoopware checking up on me periodically regardless as a matter of principle.

Charles

Ubuntu Works, but More Utilitarian than OS X

From Richard:

Hello Charles-

Greetings from the 45th Parallel on the left edge of the North American continent, here in Sunny Salem, Oregon!

I've been reading, with some interest, all of the commotion about the possible DRM-ization of OS X. I am one of those "mostly compliant" with the various EULAs attendant with most software and don't have any real problem with Apple, Inc. remaining a viable and profitable corporate entity. I do object, though, to the compromises that DRM software imposes on the smooth productivity that we pay for and expect to receive when we invest in the "Macintosh System". When one pays the "premium" price for a Mac (whatever), one is also committing to a "premium" operating system and specialized software that can't be bought at every big-box megalomart. The introduction of an efficiency crippling "feature" is, frankly, insulting to the loyal core following that stuck with Apple through the "beleaguered" days and have been enjoying the fruits of the Apple tree the past few years.

My most modern Mac, a Power Mac Gigabit Ethernet with a 1 GHz G4 processor upgrade, will likely be left behind with the next iteration of OS X (and I have yet to give up on Tiger!), so I am looking at a serious hardware upgrade should I want to move up to 10.6 and beyond. If those versions are anywhere as annoying as Vista is, with it's constant need for affirmation and verification, I will likely be looking elsewhere. That brings me to my other point:

I have an old Celeron 900 MHz Intel box that I finally got around to purging of Windows 2000. I thought about installing an old copy of SUSE Linux on it, but I read a few articles on Ubuntu Linux and figured why not - it's free! I burned a disc, installed it and . . . it worked!!! I didn't have to do a darned thing except wait a while for all of the stuff to load (well under an hour) and type in the usual user info and password stuff. It recognized all of the video and sound cards, scanner, DVD drive, Zip drive (!), and my ancient LaserWriter printer - impressive!!!

Granted, the user interface isn't as smooth and pretty as Tiger, Leopard, or Vista, and many of the programs are "utilitarian" with few frills, but they work well and require a minimal learning curve when moving from Mac or Windows. In fact, those moving from Windows 98 or OS 9 and earlier will feel absolutely liberated! I have little doubt that the GUI will improve with time. My biggest frustration with Ubuntu is that "Command-Q" doesn't do anything. I'm told that I can fix that, however!

I hope that it doesn't come to the point of having to abandon the Mac over something like DRM. Apple has done some really bone-headed things in the past, though....

Rick

Hi Rick,

"Mostly compliant." Love it! ;-)

I could have written your second paragraph myself, as it expresses my own philosophy on this issue.

Delighted to hear about your successful Ubuntu install. I installed SUSE Linux for PPC and later Yellow Dog Linux on my old WallStreet back in the early '00s, and while the process was not too grim, it certainly wasn't convenient, and the Linux Desktop GUIs at the time were still pretty lame. I understand that the latest from KDE and GNOME are quite decent.

Using Leopard for going on two months now, I keep wondering if Vista could be any more annoying in a functional sense, although I anticipate better things as the fractional updates roll out. What a contrast to smooth, slick Tiger!

BTW, I still have both a SCSI Zip drive and a Zip drive expansion bay module for my Pismos.

I rally don't want to bail from the Mac OS either (understatement), but it's good to know that there is an Open Source alternative one could learn to live with.

Charles

BSD Unix: Another non-DRM Alternative to Linux

From Jeffrey:

Charles,

...in my experience it requires more work than most computer users would tolerate.

I'll make no claims to being a *BSD or Linux expert, or even a power user, for that matter. I once did an iBook G3 "all free" experiment just to see what I could do from a free and open source software standpoint, and I was very surprised, both pleasantly and unpleasantly at the same time. There is a lot there, but almost all of it is different than what we Mac users are accustomed to, and in my experience it requires more work than most computer users would tolerate. When I was done, I had a basic business laptop that could do most of my usual PC work tasks: Office compatibility for word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations, web browsing, email, etc. I couldn't make it do everything, but I was impressed with what I could make it do. Even where it performed similar functions, the applications that did them were different and required relearning or an adjustment in my usage.

And there are a couple of things I can do with a *BSD or Linux system that I can't do on any Mac. But open source is not as polished and complete as a Mac, and it lacked many of the features (automation/scripting, integration, networking, cross-platform compatibility, drivers, etc.) that we've become accustomed to. In a nutshell, the open source road leads to many places, but also has its share of dead-ends, unpaved roads, and unfinished bridges.

Of course, I find the Mac to be far from a universal system. My wife's business benefits greatly specialized software, more than half of which is available only for the PC. If her office was Linux-based or BSD-based, then all of that "vertical" software would need to be run on a PC, but the outcome would be the same: two platforms. Even a PC couldn't do everything that she does, it's just that we'd have to supplement it less. My company chooses to use PCs too, but our graphics arts folks use Macs, and our analysts run their most demanding work on 64-bit Linux systems. Today, *BSD for me is a supplement to Mac OS, not a replacement.

In the end, I am not unhappy to pay Apple a fair price for an excellent product. But I want flexibility without headache. I have five Macs at home, and my wife has two at work, and their roles are constantly changing. I've purchased every significant version of the Mac OS since 7.6, usually multiple copies, and when a new machine arrives in the family, there is often a domino effect as to what I do with the others. I've also had some of my old equipment die without warning, making it difficult to "unregister" anything. I'd hate to have it consume a software license number in the process.

I own an iPod, but there is not one DRM song or video on it. Everything is an MP3 or self-encoded QuickTime Movie, so I can move my library to the Mac that has that role without having to reregister the thousands of songs and videos that I purchased. If Apple makes it more difficult to do those things, it will not necessarily give me a reason to leave, but it certain takes away a very strong reason to stay.

Regards,
Jeffrey Kafer

Hi Jeffrey,

Thanks for the further report on BSD.

It may be a lot of work, but then I've found Leopard a lot of work. Sometimes I feel like I'm back in the late 90s with daily restarts necessary after Spaces craps out or (most recently) it refuses to recognize an external keyboard (the PowerBook's own keyboard continued to work fine).

I think your points in paragraphs three and four are bang-on. Like I said in the article, I refuse to buy anything protected by DRM unless it's a necessity and there is absolutely no acceptable alternative.

Charles

The Power of Eudora

From Chuck:

Hi Charles,

Read with interest your recent Low End Mac article on Eudora - I wholeheartedly concur! I've been using Eudora since . . . forever . . . like maybe 1993 or even earlier - and have a 3+ GB email archive. Madness you say? Well, in total agreement with your comments on the fast searching features, I've used Eudora over the years not only as an email client, but also as database for filing lots of news, info, etc. I thought that after I'd set up an extensive mailbox hierarchy, why replicate it in a folder structure on the hard drive? Works for me.

Actually, the primary reason I've stuck with Eudora is very simple: it doesn't use a flat database for storage like most other clients. Simply stated, I travel a huge amount, always with multiple portable FireWire drives, and the odds of recovering from catastrophe with Eudora are much greater. (Don't get me started about the travesty that is MS mail products).

Anyway, so here's a question: when you migrated from Eudora on Classic to Eudora on OS X, what did you do? Install new Eudora, then copy in which parts of the Eudora Folders?

Yep, I actually am still running Eudora Pro 4.2.1 in Classic under 10.4.11 and 10.3.9; works fine but maybe I should move on from being a total Luddite (yes, I know about death of Classic with Leopard, but I have no plans to go for that cat until it's proven in for a while)

Moving on from Classic . . . sigh, now just need a real upgrade to WordPerfect . . . a single program which in and of itself is a good reason to keep Classic around....

thanks,
Chuck

Hi Chuck,

I agree. The flexibility, economy of space used, and security of Eudora's message storage format is one of the program's most valuable features. I mean I have surely tens of thousands of emails archived in my Eudora Mail folder, dating back to when I first got online in the mid-90s, and it's still just a 304 MB file - quick and easy to back up or transfer. Amazing!

As for your question, when I was still alternating back and forth between OS X and OS 9 (on the same hard drive), I didn't bother to copy anything. I just installed the respective Eudora versions and replaced the Eudora Folder for one system with an alias to the Eudora Folder for the other system. That way everything stayed automatically synched with no hassle or bother at all. In fact, I still use a similar mode with the two OS X installations (Tiger and Leopard) that I have on separate partitions of my hard drive.

Just another example of Eudora's remarkable flexibility and convenience.

You're missing a lot of headaches by giving Leopard a pass until it's more thoroughly debugged. I'm using it, but it's an adventure.

Charles

Eudora/Dialup Musings

From Reina:

Hi Charles

Just wanted to thank you for your article, Eudora Broken with Dial-up in Leopard, but Where to Go Next?

I have an Intel iMac and upgraded to Leopard for various reasons. I decided to switch to Mail due to Eudora's demise, but every day I regret that decision. There were countless features I used constantly in Eudora that are simply unavailable in Mail. Although you can buy a few plugins that improve Mail, it still doesn't begin to bring it up to the speed and functionality I had with Eudora. (Address Book and iCal were even worse, and I had to revert to Now Contact and UpToDate.)

Mail is very, very slow on dialup, and forget about trying to sync to .mac with a dialup connection.

Like you, I'm stuck with dialup for at least another year or two. I live in rural Vermont, and there just aren't many options out here.

You were spot on when you wrote that "Apple seems to have more or less thrown us dialup users to the wolves."

Let's hope that Odysseus appears soon and saves the day. But I'm very, very disappointed in Apple for failing to improve its suite of basic email, calendar, and contact applications.

Reina

Hi Reina,

Sounds like we're in the same boat regarding dialup.

I'm very, very disappointed with Apple for ruining email performance in general with Leopard. I haven't found any email application that works decently on my dialup connection with Leopard.

This seems totally unnecessary, as email works very well on my hookup with Tiger and earlier versions of the Mac OS. I'm no programmer, but how hard can it be to optimize email throughput?

I'm hoping for improvement with OS X 10.5.2, but based on Apple's recent neglect of the still-substantial proportion of computer users who don't have access to broadband (about 20% of the population here in Nova Scotia), it's not a very lively hope.

And yes, if you're like me, Eudora has ruined you for any other email application. Whatever's in second place (I don't even have a second-choice favorite - everything else I've tried is lame by comparison) is not even marginally satisfactory.

I hope they come through with Odysseus.

Charles

Adding AirPort to a White iBook

From Dan:

Hi . . . interesting piece about older white iBooks [Is a Used iBook Still a Sensible Low-end Option?]....

I have a white iBook that was given to me. It has no AirPort Card. I want to install wireless capability but don't know how. What is easiest to do? I researched on line to other forums but got a headache trying to weave thru inane posts . . . Apple won't email back . . . what else is new?

Can you quickly help me? good karma grateful :-)

Thanks
Dan

Hi Dan,

Apple actually does have an answer for this question, and an illustrated tutorial on the installation even: iBook, iBook (FireWire) and iBook SE (FireWire): Customer-Installable Parts Procedures

If you want to go third-party to save some $$ (involves soldering), here's an indie tutorial on the process: iBook G3 Airport Card Mod on MacMod.

Hope this helps.

Charles

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Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, he is news editor at Applelinks.com and a columnist at MacPrices.net. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.

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