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A Week of Memory, Malware, MacBooks and Marble

A Week of Memory, Malware, MacBooks and Marble

It's rumored that carrier Orange is gearing up to sell MacBooks at a discount in return for data service plans. What sort of MacBooks might they be talking about -- big, shiny MacBook Pros, or smaller, as-yet-nonexistent Mac netbooks? Also making news this week was a bit of malware disguising itself as a Mac application. As always, be careful what you download and install.

By Chris Maxcer MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
03/27/09 4:00 AM PT

It's been a relatively quiet week for the Apple-focused blogosphere. Apple did announce the dates for its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), which is set for June 8-12 in San Francisco. WWDC just so happens to the be the venue in which Apple is widely expected to release its next version of Mac OS X -- "Snow Leopard" -- which may be prettier than expected.

Meanwhile, Apple quietly added an option to double the memory in its 15-inch MacBook Pros, a security company caught some nasty OS X malware on video, and an international cellular service provider is rumored to be planning to sell a highly subsidized MacBook tied to a data service plan. Interesting stuff indeed.

Don't Touch My Scroll Bar!

As for Snow Leopard, AppleInsider.com reported that Apple may be working on a new user interface to Mac OS X, which may forgo the platinum (silvery white) color scheme in favor a darker, more charcoal-like scheme going by the name "marble."

"Details were sparse, but speculation pointed to the adoption of the smoother iTunes-style scrollbars and a move towards a darker chrome motif for application windows alongside an inverted menubar with light text on a dark background," AppleInsider.com reported.

Comments are all over the map, but at least a few expressed concern over Apple's bright blue scroll bars.

"I would just HATE for them to remove the blue glass scroll bars and replace them with some ugly Linux style like they have in iTunes. I'm glad it's just speculation. For the UI changes, I'm expecting it to be like iWork.com and Safari 4," commented macosxp on the AppleInsider.com post.

8 GB in a 15-inch MacBook Pro?

Moving on to the here and now, Apple started offering an 8 GB memory upgrade kit for its latest 15-inch MacBook Pros (MBPs). The 17-inch MBP already has a build-to-order option to jump up to 8 GB of memory. The upgrade kit is available on the Apple Store's set of memory pages. The kit is 2 1066 MHz DDR3 4GB SO-DIMMs and costs US$1,200.

9to5mac.com reported, however, that OWC has the same kit for $719, while Amazon.com has it for just over $1,000.

"That's cool, but it's not like my 4 gig MBP is slow or anything," Wei-o commented on 9to5mac.com. Good point: Who really needs 8 GB of memory in a 15-inch MacBook form factor, anyway?

"Pro apps like Photoshop and Final Cut Pro suck lots of memory -- the more you have, the better you are," Sven Rafferty, founder of hyperSven and SvenOnTech.com blogger, told MacNewsWorld.

"Since many pros are now doing video on the road and graphic work on 'desktop replacements,' this option makes sense. Not everyone wants to carry a huge 17-inch around -- I didn't -- and opt for the smaller-but-just-right 15-inch MacBook Pro. I think Apple is wise to offer this feature to its Pro community," Rafferty explained.

"It'll further prove to videographers and photographers that the only computer they need is a Mac," he added.

Malware Caught on Tape

Ars Technica noticed a blog post by security firm Sophos that provided a video of a new version of the RSPlug OS X trojan, OSX.RSPlug.F, masquerading as a media player application with a convincing yet fake Web site.

Basically, to get the malware, you have to download a fake HDTV/DTV program called "MacCinema" and/or an HDTV app called "HDTV Player."

"The website in the video looks legitimate; it appears to be a pretty close copy (right down to the box art) of the product page for a legitimate application with the same name," Ars Technica reported, noting that the real product is actually for Windows-based machines.

So what does the trojan do?

The RSPlug-F Trojan horse changes DNS Settings on Mac computers, meaning users may find they are taken to bogus Web sites which may attempt to steal personal information, display revenue-generating adverts, or install further malware. (By the way, if you visit the Web site from a Windows computer, it will serve up a malicious Windows executable from the Zlob family of malware rather than the RSPlug-F Mac OS X Trojan horse.)

"You should not be allowed to use a computer until you demonstrate that you can refrain from installing random sh*t from random websites because they told you to," commented mrsteveman1.

This trick, however, has very likely convinced at least a few users.

"Web-based attacks like this are the most common type of malware-delivery mechanism we see these days," Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant for Sophos, told MacNewsWorld.

"A lot are in the form of SQL injection attacks, but we do also see social engineering attacks like this used to install financially-motivated malicious code," he explained. Cluley posted the original video on his Sophos blog.

How, then, is a Mac user able to determine the fake from the legit?

"It's really not possible for the average guy in the street to spot a fake site from a legit site. Furthermore, most of the infected sites we encounter are actually legitimate sites that have been hacked and had malicious code planted on them," Cluley said.

"We see around about 20,000 new legitimate Web sites every day that are hosting malicious code -- presumably without the knowledge of the Web site owner. The best thing to do is make sure you have proper security in place, which means patches for your OS, plugins and applications, firewalls, and anti-virus software," he noted.

"It's worth stressing that Mac malware is much less frequently encountered than Windows -- but it's clear that some gangs are very happy to take advantage of what they see as a smaller but less well defended group of potential victims," he added.

Cheap MacBooks on the Way?

While some Apple lovers are pining away for a Mac netbook, looks like one international mobile phone carrier isn't bothering to wait around. According to Macnn.com -- itself sourcing a report in Mobile, a UK-based magazine -- carrier Orange may be planning to sell MacBooks at a significant discount in return for a two-year mobile data contract.

If completed, the deal would represent the first time a MacBook has been offered alongside cellular service, Macnn.com reported, noting that while other computer manufacturers have provided PCs to phone carriers, Apple has limited its cellular deals to the iPhone.

"If they subsidize a MacBook PRO you can count me IN!!!" commented Rolando_jose on the Macnn.com post.

Of course, the whole deal, assuming it's legit, might simply be a way to pave the way for Orange selling a Mac netbook or tablet some time in the future. So, can we look forward to a new future where laptops are subsidized by mobile phone carriers, similar to our cell phones?

"Aside from netbooks and laptops, carriers want more revenue from the investments that they made in their new data infrastructure. This is true of 3G and will no doubt be a fixture when 4G networks are more prevalent," William Ho, research director of Wireless Services for Current Analysis, told MacNewsWorld.

"The data use will not be in the laptop and netbook domain alone as new consumer electronics devices will have embedded cellular modules with wholesale data agreements that do not look like any data plan to the end user -- a great example of this is the Kindle," he added.


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