Friday, February 29, 2008

Disk Encryption hacks

Having commented in the past about using disk or disk image encryption to protect my data this research shows that you're never really safe. While thats true, if you use disk images and unmount them, log off (as opposed to locking your screen) or set your keychain to auto-lock after some period, then you'll be more protected against these kinds of attacks.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Video conferencing for the rest of us

Rumors are starting to circulate that Apple will add video conferencing (ala iChat) to its AppleTV. That would be the killer app for the box. For me, as i've said before the, the AppleTV holds little appeal. But if all of a sudden it supports video conferencing i'll be buying one, not for myself, but for my PC-brainwashed family. 

AppleTV becomes Apple's next virus to infect the home after iTunes. iTunes introduced easy synchronization on multiple platforms and a way to deliver music, movies, TV, and soon iPhone apps. Next AppleTV will be replacing your phone calls and bringing more mac-like stuff to your living room. For those who refuse to move off their PCs and move to the unknown world of Apple, this small step (after the lure of the iPhone) is yet another pull into the wonderful world of all things Apple.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sparse Bundle Disk Images

So i've blogged in the past about my concerns on Time Machine and FileVault and how I use encrypted disk images to store sensitive data rather than use FileVault. Basically Time Machine requires you to be logged out and FileVault encrypts too much anyway.

OSX Leopard introduced Sparse Disk Bundles which I hadn't looked into until recently. Like a sparse disk image they look like a certain size volume but only use whatever capacity you've actually used within them (give or take a bit). The issue with sparse disk images is that when you change anything inside of them the entire image changes due to the encryption and you have to back it up as one big chunk. With sparse disk bundles only a small chunk (min of 8MB) that changed needs to be backed up. 

So rather than a nightly 15 minute backup of some large .sparseimage, you can get down to a nightly 30 second incremental backup of the same data in a .sparsebundle. With the same level of protection. This works both for rsync and for Time Machine.

This means if you have sparse disk images of any size you should consider converting them to bundles. Here's the command line way to convert them:

hdiutil convert -format UDSB -o docs.sparsebundle docs.sparseimage

And then when you feel comfortable (or trust Time Machine) delete the docs.sparseimage file.

Your backups will be faster and you wont eat up all your TimeMachine disk space.

And since you're mounting/unmounting these as you need them you're essentially satisfying the "logout" requirement for TimeMachine to backup the sparse disk bundles.

There's evidently some debate as to whether its safe to rsync/backup a mounted sparse bundle. From above it seems Apple thinks not.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Obligatory comment on MS/Yahoo

Ok, so here's my 2c to the whole thing. Google is mad that Microsoft is trying to buy Yahoo and Microsoft is angry about that. The thing that I wonder about is why Google cares? Microsoft can't get their stuff together in this area and Yahoo is not even close as far as I can tell (but what do I know?). Yahoo's mail client has gotten a lot more slick and they've been getting into interesting things like push mail with the iPhone but I see all that going away if they join the borg.. oops I mean Microsoft. 

As to the rumors about Apple bidding on Yahoo. I say stick to innovative real products and don't spread yourself too thin.

So really google, why do you care? Just do what you do best and outthink them. The bar really isn't that high anyway (VistaMac Office 2008 being two messes i've recently noted in this blog).