Friday, January 30, 2009

The Original Macintosh vs. Boot Sector Viruses

My discussion of the absence of boot sector viruses from the original Macintosh gets good coverage today over at Roughly Drafted. Since the Mac community is currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Mac's introduction, the timing is even apropos.

For those not familiar with my history in the Macintosh anti-virus world, I wrote the Gatekeeper anti-virus system.

True story: As I was working up to the first release of Gatekeeper, I interviewed with Apple for a job. At that time, working at Apple looked to me like the holy grail of jobs, so I went into the interview nervous as hell, but with high hopes. In order to demonstrate the various Mac software that I had developed, I brought along a hard disk, and booted one of their Macs from it. When the Gatekeeper icon appeared on the startup screen, nobody recognized it, so they asked what it was and I explained that it was a generic anti-virus system I was developing that could defeat viruses without any prior knowledge of them, because it watched the behavior of software for actions likely to be unique to viruses, and prevented those behaviors from successfully completing. I was laughed at, and was not offered the job.

The nitwits at Apple notwithstanding, Gatekeeper did work. It wasn't a perfect solution (of course), but it did, among other things, result in the first detection of at least one, and possibly several, viruses. (After 15+ years, I'm a bit vague on the specifics.) And, in the last several years, it has been dusted-off and cited as prior art in order to invalidate at least one software patent.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Nest Box Preparations

To prepare the screech owl nest box for the possibility of nesting by my local screech owls, as of this evening, I've now evicted various numbers of squirrels from the box three times, have opened-up and cleaned the camera compartments, and have repaired a broken wire from the entryway sensor. So, the box is being kept available to, and ready for, the owls, should a pair choose to claim it this year.

Unfortunately, I still haven't setup the A-to-D converter board I bought to replace the one that burned-out a few years ago, so I have no data on whether, or not, the box is being visited. Hopefully, I'll work-up the energy to do that soon. And this time, I really must use an optoisolator in the circuit.

Otherwise, the only remaining problem with the setup is a semi-persistent humming noise on the audio circuit. It has bedeviled me ever since I put a microphone in the box. I assume that it's a grounding issue, but I've grounded everything I can think of to the common household ground and the problem still occurs. The intermittency of the problem makes trial-and-error resolution especially difficult, although I've pretty much run out of ideas, anyway. Needless to say, I'm open to suggestions from anyone with relevant experience.