DateTuesday 26 October 2004

Are journalists really a major source of ‘stop energy’ (as Rob Scoble seems to imply)?

Over at happy-go-lucky Robert Scoble’s blog, he’s aligned himself with, errr, happy-go-lucky Dave Winer in his dislike of stop energy (basically, people sucking their teeth and saying “Werl, you can’t, see..” Builders have it in spades (haha) but of course all sorts of bits of any organisation that is meant to be creative has it too, because you can’t put just any old idea out there.

The person who has clearly tweaked Scoble [sidenote: I feel uncofortable using just his surname; I dislike it when people do it to me] is journalist John Dvorak, who had a rant recently against the growing phenomenon of Podcasting. (Podcasting is certainly growing, inasmuch as it’s not shrinking. Argue amongst yourselves about how much of it really goes on.)

OK, John Dvorak seems here principally to be saying “I can’t make it work, ergo it’s for utter geeks and Mac-users or the intersection of the two”. Which has Scoble grinding his teeth: Now, a good critical comment is important to the industry. It helps weed out weak ideas, or at least helps reshape those ideas so that they are applicable to more people.

But, I’m tired of people who do nothing but criticise.

Now, quite often the people who are in line to do that criticism, at least in public places, have historically been journalists, or more specifically columnists. (Though now anyone online can have a blog, hey, everyone’s a critic.) I do some of this myself; a few weeks back I wasn’t very complimentary (paywalled article) about the new Blackberry 7710, because it seemed to be neither handheld nor mobile phone, and had a different keyboard from any other handheld device in general use. But then again when I rave about something – as I did the previous Blackberry 7230 – then I make that clear too.

So is it really journalists who generate the stop energy? I don’t think so. How magical if ’twere so: there are lots of bad things we’d like to stop just by writing a few words on a page. Scoble’s annoyance seems to me more like someone having a raw nerve touched. Podcasting doesn’t seem quite like a grassroots movement; it’s more something that’s spreading outwards from developers. It has plenty of potential for a world where people are sick of the radio stations they’d otherwise find themselves listening to. (Though in the UK, radio listening figures have risen dramatically recently.) Honestly, Robert (can I call you Robert?), one article by one guy isn’t going to make a difference. It never does.

Nope, still no viruses on Mac OSX (despite Opener)

Over at Macfixit, there’s a good article (for Mac aficionados) about The “Opener” scare and keeping malicious scripts off your Mac. Though as the content goes behind a paywall after a day, I thought I’d flag it here. Just for the nervous.

Opener surfaced with this thread at Macintouch; someone noticed a process called “John” sucking up half of his dual-processor CPU capacity. Turned out there was a password cracker running which had somehow – the detail isn’t clear – got onto his machine.

But some quick analysis suggested the only ways it could have got there would be (1) someone snarfed his email password and that was the same as his login password (2) someone got at his physical machine (3) big boy dunnit and ran away. The comments in the Macintouch thread by John C Welch, who can spot a security weakness from a long distance off in things you might think were entirely harmless, are worth reading.

However, no virus stuff going on (which means that my predictions for 2004 aren’t under threat either).

Here’s the summation by Macfixit: Fortunately, there is no immediate threat posed by this, or any other malicious shell script currently in circulation — running the “opener” script and allowing it to do any damage requires root authentication, which must be locally entered by a Mac OS X administrator. There is currently no vector for this or any other malicious Mac OS X script, i.e. no way for the script to autonomously take hold of the system or propagate itself to other systems without express administrator permission. In other words, it is not spreading, and cannot spread without a vector that is capable of gaining root access.

Happy now? I expect that the people who felt happy before are just as happy; and the ones who were worried are just as worried now.

Meanwhile, still ain’t an OSX virus, despite the hackers’ best efforts. (Though the Mac ones hardly compare, it must be said, to the best of the Windows black-hackers, who can produce stuff like CoolWebSearch (the link goes to a long thread discussing this evil, evil piece of software).