Apple forcing its own web browser to iTunes users

It seems that recently, Apple started pushing its Safari web browser to all Windows users having iTunes installed. I’ve never been an Apple fan: I think the OS is certainly not more userfriendly in contrast to what some people say, and although it is somewhat Unix based, they removed and re-implemented half of it (I’m thinking of things like launchd, broken NIS support and others), which is terrible for people used to *nix. And I have my doubts about the hardware too: apparently the latest generation Macbook Pro still come with way too less USB ports to work comfortobly, the international keyboards are different from standard PC keyboards, and I’m still not sure it is really that cheap, or at least the “Pro” stuff).

With the decision to force the installation of Safari on all Windows systems running the Apple updater, Apple is finally showing its real face: just like Microsoft, it does not care at all about its users and will do whatever is necessary to gain widespread adoption.

Anti-competitive behaviour

Finally Microsoft lost the appeal against the ruling of the European Commission. I heard an analyst say on the radio here that this would be bad for customers: users would receive an OS without multimedia player now, and would have to search for such a basic application themselves. Not so knowledgeable people, would even pay for such software. It’s unbelievable that people who don’t even know what this case is about, are being considered as “experts”. Microsoft is still allowed to sell the version with media player, and actually as history has proven already, almost nobody will be interested in distributing the OS without the media player. The most important thing of this ruling (and always ignored in popular media), is that Microsoft is forced now to publish “interoperability information”, which can be used by for example the Samba team, to better implement things like Active Directory support. This is what matters in this ruling! For those people who think that Europe is only trying to bully a successful foreign commercial company, please read the whole ruling. As you’ll see, this was not a light decision. See paragraphs 807-809 for the decisions related to the interoperability information.

Speaking of anti-competitive behaviour, Apple currently is not much better than Microsoft. The new iPOD generation, protects its internal database with a hash, making it impossible to play any files uploaded with programs other than iTunes. All other alternatives cannot be used anymore, and because iTunes only exists for Windows and Mac OS X, Linux users are completely locked out. A few days later, the hash was already cracked, so this proves once again that all this DRM-alike stuff is not working at all, and just annoying users. Actually this is not the first time Apple is trying to block its competitors. It already has done something similar with the DAAP protocol in the past, also locking out all non-iTunes users. Hello Europe, will you continue accepting this?

If anybody knows of a good alternative for the iPOD, supporting Ogg Vorbis and having a capacity of at least 20 GB, I would like to hear about it. And don’t answer Cowon’s iAUDIO. Owning an iAUDIO M3 for a bit more than 3 years, I know that this player has a very serious hardware design flaw, actually making the whole device almost unusable in the end, and technical support in Europe is almost non-existent. So no more Cowon for me anymore…

Resistance is futile, you will be packaged!

Today, I had again the honour to work with an operating system which is not based around a package manager. The victim: Mac OS X Server. It’s a brand new Mac Pro machine being used as a mail and web server.

Mac OS X Server already comes with most software for configuring a web and mail server included, and has graphical configuration tools. Postfix, Cyrus, Amavisd-new, Spamassassin, Clamav, Apache HTTPD, etc, are all there by default, and easy to configure. Sounds great? Wait a minute…

The problem is that the versions included, are really old, even completely outdated. Let’s take Apache. The version included is some 1.3 version. If you need Subversion running on Apache with Webdav support, then you need at least Apache 2.0… Clamav? the included version is some 0.88 version, which cannot use today’s virusdb updates anymore. That makes Clamav completely useless… Spamassassin? You have the outdated version 3.0.1, hardly impressive if you need to filter’s todays spammer’s creations.

So to make your system really useful, you have to compile a lot of programs by hand. On the system there was Macports installed, and Perl version 5.8 (not sure if it came like this by default, or someone else installed these on this machine before I touched it). So I installed Spamassassin with Perl 5.8 CPAN. All went fine. Let’s restart amavisd, and it will be using the new spamassassin, right? Wrong! Amavisd-new itself is a Perl program, and does not use the spamassassin or spamc binaries, but directly accesses the Spamassassin Perl module. amavisd-new was still using Perl 5.6 as installed by default in Mac OS X, while Spamassassin used Perl 5.8 from Macports, so amavisd-new only found the old Spamassassin in @INC. That should not be too difficult to fix: let’s just change the shebang in amavisd-new, so it uses Perl 5.8 in /opt/local/bin. I restart amavisd, and got a lot of errors of missing Perl modules. By trial and error (read: installing dependency, trying to start amavisd, getting new error, installing dependency,….), I succeed in the end in installing all its dependencies, and amavisd starts fine now. A bit later, new mail starts arriving, and this causes weird errors in the amavisd log (something about wrong file handles). Huh? Well, the amavisd-new included in Mac OS X is very old (from 2004 or 2005 if I remember correctly). Maybe it simply does not work with Perl 5.8?

So now I had to upgrade amavisd-new too… Fortunately some great documentation on the web helped me a lot. Again I had to install some Perl dependencies with cpan, I had to patch amavisd-new for Mac OS X as instructed in the guide, and I had to recreate a new amavisd.conf file. But in the end, I finally had a working amavisd-new installation.

But we don’t have finished yet! Now it seems mails are not scanned anymore with Razor2, although it is installed by default in Mac OS X and I have activated it in my Spamassassin 3.2 configuration… Well it’s the same problem again: Razor2 is installed in Perl 5.6 @INC, but not in Perl 5.8. So again I had to grab the sources and install it by hand, to make it work. While at it, I also compiled Pyzor and dcc-client. And I created a little cronjob wich uses sa-update to grab new rules from SARE.

So, after several hours of work, I think I finally have an adequate working spam filtering system on Mac OS X Server. On an operating system with a good package manager and enough available packages, such as Debian or Mandriva, this would have cost me about an hour at most. Operating systems like Mac OS X, Slackware and others which lack a complete and well integrated packaging system and ditto repositories, really make this a terrible experience. Avoid them if you can!