FreakoutITGeek's Blog

Random IT postings from Freakz

Monthly Archives: June 2011

Hunting High & Low

Since I first heard about Apple opening a store in Braehead I have periodically popped in to the shopping centre to play spot the store.

Early on I thought it may have been beside Marks & Spencer, but that wasn’t an ideal location and didn’t provide the store front that Apple have used for their other UK shopping centre based stores. As it turned out, it wasn’t the location, as it’s now an H&M.

Then I thought it would be in the centre section, which although the space looked small, appeared to fit as an ideal location with loads of natural light, loads of space outside the store for the massive opening queues and being close to the food hall, staff and customers could get a Costa coffee, a snack or lunch. Again these locations have now been filled.

On my last trip I started getting disheartened by the store fronts that were vacant, not what I would consider prime Apple Store locations. Although the stores that have been there for a while have moved about a bit recently, so maybe in a few store shuffles time, the ideal store may just appear.

My mind is now wandering to the possibility that the store could be built in the X-Scape part of Braehead, although if they did that, they would get the younger audience and people who go there to get a meal, watch a film or go on the SnoZone slope. I can’t see Apple placing there store there, unless they are trying to make a statement & shun the UK shopping centre fronts that they have used recently.

I have heard people suggesting that the store is going to be located in the old PC World unit, just outside the Shopping Centre, but it would then be a stand alone unit, squashed between Halfords and Dixons, not really a prime location and not one that I would have picked.

I’d love Apple to build a store from
scratch at Braehead, or renovate one of the old buildings that are dotted around outside of the centre, putting the Apple brand on the area, but I don’t think that that’s the intention, at least not at the present time.

So, with no nice Apple banners appearing in the area to shroud a fledgling store of the future and bringing excitement to the area and no visible hints yet, I guess I’ll have to continue visiting Braehead to play my game of cat & mouse.

Either I’ll spot something or I’ll be standing in the queue awaiting the store opening, whenever that may be.

Update:

After an accidental stumbling on the SkyScraperCity site It appears that there are indications that the Apple Store will take the spot vacated by GAP [although the posting is from 2010]. Cross referencing this information with another site it appears that the store will be at 8 Braehead Shopping Centre ?. That puts the store next to ‘The Officers club’ at 10, Wallis Fashion Group at 7 & Bay Trading at 6.
If my memory serves me correctly, this is where Braehead currently have a renovation barrier which said something like ‘ making way for a new exciting store’.. So the clues appear to be pointing in the same direction? Only time will tell..

Update 04/09/2011:

I have recently been informed that a store front that has been getting some work done on it is now displaying the Apple logo.

After a quick look online brought up a link to ifoApleStore.com, which has a picture ( see the [Barricade] link) of what I have recently suspected to be the site of the new Braehead Apple Store . The original plain black hoarding has now got the Apple logo and Apple’s UK URL added, indicating that the launch should be soon. On the http://www.ifoapplestore.com home page is a suggestion [see ‘Grand Opening Schedule’ at the top right] that the store could launch on Saturday the 10th September. There is no official posting of this date on the Apple UK website at this time.

[Update 09/09/2011]

Earlier in the week I posted (On my Twitter Acount, via Color ) a few quick photos of the hoarding that is currently up around the location of the new store, Whilst there I did a quick check for any telltale Wi-Fi signals that would indicate that the store was ready for launch, nothing apparent showed.

Still no sign of an official Apple opening date. ifoapplestore.com are now showing a possible opening of the 17th.

Personally I have heard from different sources that Apple are currently recruiting for weekend or possibly part time staff (sounds like 1st interviews), whether this is for the Braehead or Glasgow store I’m not sure at this point & it could be that these are XMas positions? If they are for the new store then I would then put the opening date as sometime during September weekend (local Public Holiday weekend Friday 23rd – Monday 26th) Which has always been my preferred date (those who know me know why) If so it should be a good weekend.

Update 14/09/2011

Apple have finally announced the Grand opening of the Apple Store Braehead on Saturday the 17th September. A new Apple Store page has now gone live on Apple’s UK retail Stores area http://www.apple.com/uk/retail/braehead/ (see my blog page ‘Apple Store Braehead opening confirmed’)

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Home Network Storage

In my recent posting on my ideal Home network setup, I mentioned network storage, something that is sadly lacking from most people’s home network.

In my posting I mentioned what I believe to be the best solution for myself, but for those reading my postings I thought it was worth delving deeper into my reasons for choosing the NetGear RND 2000 ReadyNAS Duo.

The RND 2000 is designed for the home IT enthusiast, in my opinion containing everything that you would need for a modern home network.

The main reason for having a Network Atached Storage ( NAS ) device is to have a place to store your files, rather than cluttering up your hard disk. The advantage of a NAS over a USB drive is that the device can be used from any computer on the network so sharing files is easier and more secure.

The RND 2000 can take 2 SATA drives up to 2GB each in size, which you can set as a RAID array so that any data saved to the device is copied to both disks incase of drive failure ( who wants to loose all their files because they bought the cheap product?). As the unit doesn’t come with hard disks, this allows you to slowly upgrade to bigger disks as you can afford them, rather than purchasing the unit with the drives already in place. Both drive bays are hot swappable, so you don’t need to shut the unit down before replacing a faulty drives or upgrading one of the drives.

But the RND 2000 is more than file storage, it has several extra features that are useful in a home network & make it worth the price you pay for it.

Firstly it can be used for media streaming. By uploading your Media files to the device you can then stream them using the in built streaming server that supports Apple iTunes, Sonos, Logitech squeezebox, Playstation 3 and XBox 360.

For users who want to share photos or files with friends, it has an in built Web server and an FTP server, if you feel the need.

If you are a fan of downloading freeware and updates via Bittorrent, then you’ll want to know that the RND 2000 also has an in built Bittorrent server, so you don’t need to leave your Windows or Apple Machine on & this will free your computer to run the applications you want, whilst the RND 2000 deals with your downloads.

With 3 USB ports it can be used for printer sharing, monitoring of a Uninterruptible Power supply (UPS) [ if you use one] or attaching your existing external USB storage devices so that you can share them, back them up to the NAS or copy the data off to take it with you.

For Mac users it supports AFP ( meaning it will work with System 9 as well as OS X ), it can be used as a Time Machine backup device and supports Bonjour, in addition to the other features already mentioned.

Obviously with all this work you need a good network interface, so the device comes with a Gigabit network interface (which, as you would expect, works with 10/100 if needed) which should be plenty for most home users.

And lastly the RND 2000 typically only uses 35W (depending on drives fitted) and has power saving features to keep the costs of running such a device low.

With so much, in such a small package, you can see why it’s on my wish list for my home network. In my opinion the only thing that can beat this is the Apple Mac Mini Server ( although that doesn’t have hot swappable drives ).

Ideal Home Setup

From time to time I think of my ideal home set up and dream about what it would look like. I thought I’d share these thoughts with readers of this blog and see what others think of these dreams.

Let’s start with the all important network:

At present I have a Linksys wifi router that’s quite a few years old now and is starting to show its age. Connected to the router I have my salvaged IT kit (iBook G4, Apple IMac [2006 intel chipset]), my 5 year old Dell laptop, my iPhone 3GS, My wife’s blackberry, our Nintendo Wii, DSi & our iPad all connecting. As the router was one of the best available at the time, it’s doing good but with only 4x 10/100 network ports and the wireless G wifi it is struggling with all the devices competing to share the Virgin media connection. It’s time I upgraded this to something that is more suitable for our current & future requirements.

My preference at the moment is to move to the latest Cisco / linksys router, ideally the E4200 Wireless N-450 Dual Band Gigabit Cable router.

The E4200 looks like a good option:

The updated WiFi security settings will allow us to continue our Nintendo Wii whilst protecting the devices that can use better security protocols.

The dual band will allow the older systems to use the Wireless-G signal, whilst newer devices can use the Wireless-N signal for video streaming etc without the older systems having an impact on the newer ones. It also has 3 antennas for wireless-N signals and another 3 for wireless-G signals and MiMo to easily allow for multiple wifi connections and great signal strength.

The 4 Gigabit Ethernet ports will allow me to connect vital equipment such as a Mac Mini Server, NAS and iMac so that they can have the fastest possible file transfer speeds between each other and the WiFi. 10/100 is just too slow nowadays. The E4200 also has a USB port to allow for file storage using an external USB drive, not as good as a NAS, but space for storage and backup is always worth having.

I’ll have to look into the possibility of using a RADIUS server for greater WiFi security (need to check out OS X server docs) and I’m playing with the idea of having a second ‘public’ wifi ( an option on the the E4200 ) so that I can allow Free WiFi (limited) access similar to recommendations by the EFF.

So the network should be sorted with the E4200, but I will probably need better storage for backup, saving files, and streaming (?)

My idea is to have a NetGear ReadyNAS Duo (RND 2000) connected to one of the Gigabit ports of the router, this will have dual SATA drives running as a mirrored RAID, without being too costly. Using Mirrored RAID should ensure data security (I’ll have to have it on some form of Surge protector, possibly something from Belkin or APC) as it will probably be used to hold backups from the different machines as well as being used as for media streaming to the other devices and file storage. The Netgear Duo also has a USB port so that I can share our printer from it so that it’s hopefully going to be available from the Windows laptop and the Apple systems. The USB port will also be handy to transfer existing data from our current 1GB external USB drive to the NAS.

So that should be the network & storage sorted. Now for machines for work.. I think an updated iMac and Mac Mini Server will be ideal for my needs.

The Mac Mini Server is an overlooked bit of kit, taking up the same space as a stack of CDs or DVDs the server will hardly be noticeable. It should be handy for managing the Apple kit we already have and should allow me to try out media streaming, pod casting, web design and loads of other things that I’ve been unable to do previously.
It has dual hard disks so a NAS may not be needed(?), however I’d hate to have everything on one system, where the drives are not hot swappable.

The iMac will allow me to remote into the Mac Mini Server ( so that I can have it ‘headless’), but at the same time be able to learn more about the current OS X operating system, create videos, play with Garage band ( maybe learn to play something), edit photos & videos from our digital camera or my iPhone. BootCamp, VMWare or Parallels ( not sure which is better at the moment) will be needed so that I have Windows 7 and XP installed to allow me to still support friends and family when they are looking for help (gotta keep your hand in). I’m sure that there’s loads more exciting stuff that I could do with updated kit ( including App development for OS X and iOS), things that are just not possible with the old kit I have at present.

And to chill out, I think we should have an Apple TV, pulling content from the NAS or the Mac Mini Server. The Apple TV would have to be connected to a big TV or a projector ( I’m now wondering If the rumour about Apple patenting a 3D projector is true?) and it would be handy for showing photos and videos taken on the digital camera or iPhone to friends and family.

Some management of all this kit could be performed using our iPad 2 or iPhone ( Which I’ll have to consider upgrading soon. Hopefully Virgin Mobile will start providing the new iPhone when it comes out, especially as Virgin mobile use T-Mobile as their carrier and T-Mobile & Orange sold the iPhone 4 and they have now have merged to become Everything Everywhere. Even Virgin Mobile Canada sold the iPhone 4, so I’m hopeful that Virgin Mobile UK will do the same soon)

So there you have it, Dual band Wireless N router possibly with public access, Mac mini Server managing everything, loads of secure storage, an iMac work horse, Apple TV for chilling out, iPad for fun ( web browsing, games, social networking, etc) and everything just working together 🙂

Now back to reality with a bump.. I’d better get a better job to pay for all this kit & the electricity it will all use 😦

Shame it’s all just a pipe dream..

Cloud Cuckoo Land ?

My mother uses to have a phrase when I used to have outlandish ideas as a child, she would say “you’re living in Cloud Cuckoo Land”. For those that haven’t heard the phrase it means that you are being silly and making believe impossible things.

As you’re all probably aware Apple released details of it’s new iCloud service yesterday evening (UK time) with the usual excited tones of an Apple launch.

If you’ve not aware check out Apple.com or the 2 hour WWDC Keynote

As many are aware Apple have had online storage, e-mail, photo sharing and other services since .mac (renamed
to MobileMe a few years back) So is this another rebrand, and if not what’s new?

Well Apple have realised that consumers have demanded iPhones, iPads and iPods, but some might not have an OS X or Windows PC to plug it into to activate it, update it, load content, backup content and various other things that users do on a regular basis. Also what happens when you upgrade, your desktop PC is away for repair?

So realising this they have spent a lot of their profits on building Massive (see the WWDC Keynote for details) data centres to allow users to have all their content stored online, after all all these devices have WiFi or 3G connections..

Now Apple being the company it is, they realised that just storing files wasn’t enough, they realised that in order for users to have everything they need they would have to store their pictures, calendars and other content in line and they may have multiple devices they use (iPhone and iMac for instance).

Now some of this online content sharing was already available to MobileMe/.Mac users, so they will be moving these users over to the iCloud, but they have been improving the service, implementing changes so that the items in iCloud are instantaneously changed on all the other devices (assuming they have an Internet connection).

Added to this Apple have realised that space is a previous thing so they have stated that any content purchased on iTunes will not be counted towards the users limits. I am assuming that iCloud just references the original iTunes files so as to save space on their storage systems?

So what about content that users have converted from original CDs that they own? Well Apple have said that, for a small annual fee, they will try to match your tunes to the same tune from the iTunes store so that you get a high quality iTunes version of the song added to your iTunes library and accessible on your Apple devices. This ensures you get a good quality version of the song and Apple don’t need to store your copy of the song on their servers (getting round possible copyright issues?).

So what If the songs are not in the massive Apple iTunes library, or you have other non iTunes media? Well you still have the option to copy the files via cable & PC or via other transfer methods.. old school !! 🙂

I almost forgot, if you have an iOS or Lion OS X device, the service will be free (except for the ripped from CD tunes).

The programming tools that allow other applications / software vendors to use the iCloud have already been released to developers, so by the time Apple release iCloud to the public in Autumn there should be a lot more to this story than we presently know.

Again Apple have taken things to the next step. True, other services have been trying to do something similar (Amazon), but Apple just pulled an Ace out the pack and the rest will be playing catch up for a while.

OS X and File Quarantine

File Quarantine is the security protection built into OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and 10.6 (Snow Leopard), which performs security on files downloaded using Apple’s Safari, iChat and Mail.

On Leopard File Quarantine guards the files that are downloaded and warns the user when they try running the file that it was downloaded from the Internet. Logged with the file is details of the website the file was downloaded from, so that the user can check that it is a legitimate file / application before they run it.

The concept was beefed up with Snow Leopard, where the introduction of malware definitions was included. These definitions are used to detect known malware when the file is downloaded, saving users from accidentally installing a malicious application onto their system.

Recently Apple released an update for Snow Leopard ( available from 01/06/2011 via System Update) to File Quarantine which includes definitions of the recent MacDefender malware (and variants) and they have taken the wise move to allow Snow Leopard to run a daily check for any updates to the File Quarantine definitions, so that users are protected (as much as possible) from such risks in the future.

I would like to make it clear that other applications may also have been written to take advantage of the File Quarantine facility within Leopard and Snow Leopard, but it is advisable to check before running any files downloaded using these applications and always to think before you download applications from unknown websites.

With the development of the Apple App store for OS X, Apple is clearly trying to provide a safe and secure method for software vendors to provide vetted applications to users and users to find trusted applications. Whilst there will still be vendors creating software and distributing the software outside the App Store, users should be aware of the risks involved and take appropriate action.

MacDefender security patch

Yesterday (01/06/2011) I received an Apple security Update email advising that update 2011-003 was available for Mac OS X v10.6.7 & Mac OS X Server v 10.6.7.

The details of the mail advise that Apple have added details of the recent OSX.MacDefender.A malware to the definitions used by the File Quarantine (used when downloading files using Safari and some other applications within OS X)

In addition to this, Apple have now enabled a daily update feature for the File Quarantine malware definitions, this download is enabled by standard but can be enabled/disabled via Security Preferences.

Included with this update is a routine to check for and remove MacDefender (or known variants) if found on a system. Users will be prompted on reboot of the system if any such files are found.

As the update shows, this is only for the latest version of OS X so users should ensure that they have run Software Update to endure that their system is up to date before this update can be run.

Apple have not released details for later versions of OS X, so if you are running an older version, make sure that you disable the “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading” option in Safari (see my posting on MacDefender ) and if you have run the MacDefender / MacGuard (or other variant) I would suggest running ClamXav, which is a great fee virus checker for OS X.

For further details on File Quarantine see Apple Knowledge Base article at http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3662

For details of update see Apple Knowledge Base article at http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4651

For further details please see Apple Security Update web site.