The Macalope Weekly: Thanks sooo much

[Editors’ Note: Each week the Macalope skewers the worst of the week’s coverage of Apple and other technology companies. In addition to being a mythical beast, the Macalope is not an employee of Macworld. As a result, the Macalope is always free to criticize any media organization. Even ours.]

It's lovely that so many people feel the need to help Apple enthusiasts out. What would we do without their reminders that we're some kind of cult, their insistence that we really need lousy technologies, and their repeated reminders that we face utter doom?

Maybe everything is religion

The Macalope feels bad. In all the hoopla over the Mac Defender Trojan he feels like he’s been neglecting the crop of jerks that periodically make Apple into their whipping boy.

Take the BBC, for example.

Last week the network offered up Secrets of the Superbrands, which made the groundbreaking claim that Apple was just like a religion.

Wow, never seen that before.

The basis for the BBC’s whole point is that some researchers showed that certain beloved brands, such as Apple, affect the same centers of the brain that religion does. Therefore, the BBC felt that gave them license to mock Apple fans as being crazy religious zealots.

Now, the BBC only allows you to watch this video if you’re in the UK. The Macalope went to great lengths to view this video, laden with snark and eye-rolling at the expense of enthusiastic Apple fans, that the BBC apparently only wants to be seen by people stuffed with bangers and mash and warm beer and oh, God, that actually sounds good. The Macalope should never write when he’s hungry.

Read more…

It’s all good, though. He’s sure Macworld will reimburse him for the round-trip ticket to Heathrow so he could use the airport Wi-Fi to view the video with a British IP address before hopping a flight back to the Colonies.

Sheesh, it’s like the BBC built a virtual wall and put their content behind it! What kind of jerk does that?!

Anyway, while he’s sure that any complaining about this BBC piece is just another sign of how deep into the religion one is, here’s the Macalope’s thing about this.

The BBC had the researchers give an MRI to one (1) Apple enthusiast. Now, the Macalope is not a scientist by trade, but he has taken some science classes, watched several episodes of Nova, and once saw Bill Nye in a restaurant, and he’s pretty sure that that’s not a very large sample size. Apparently, they’ve studied other people’s reactions to brands, though, and the horny one has no real reason to doubt that it’s true that Apple (or Google or Starbucks or Amazon but not Dell because that would be ridiculous) would fire up the same brain centers as religion in its fans. That, however, does not give you license to Photoshop a halo and robes on Steve Jobs. Just because the same center of the brain is active doesn’t mean Apple fans worship Apple.

Which brings us to the Macalope’s second complaint, which he’s sure will only cement his crazy Apple cultism status (as if it needed any cementing). The researchers were not asked what other things might also stimulate the same brain centers. Sports? Politics? Entertainment stars? Your mom? The point being that it’s possible those centers of the brain are triggered by a superset of social imagery, of which religion and consumerism are just two examples.

The BBC didn’t ask about that. They got the answer they wanted—Apple = religion—and then went off to look for organ music and choir tracks to play over pictures of Steve Jobs.

They also neglected to mention that the Neurosense, the group whose researcher they interviewed, isn’t some non-profit. They’re a for-profit business that tries to sell clients on the idea that they can learn something from how the brain reacts to products.

Our company is a next generation consumer research enterprise. Using applied neuroscience to see inside the consumer’s mind, we provide leading marketers and public sector clients with accurate and actionable insights into their customer’s cognitive engagement and emotional impulses.

So, they have a vested interest in making people believe this stuff is true.

Almost like the heads of major religions.

Hey!

Murdering other people's darlings

Boy, it seems like just a year ago we were hearing how foolish Apple was for not including Flash in the iPad...

Hey, wait, it was just a year ago. It's been a whole year of hearing how the Android tablets that were just around the corner were going to be iPad killers, because they would run Flash and Flash is Internet video, you know, and consumers love Flash so much they want to marry it and have children who run slowly and crash into things.

Well, funny thing happened.

Turns out iOS became the dominant platform for mobile video viewing. Whaaaat? But Flash is video on the Internet! Is nothing sacred anymore?!

Actually... no.

Mac Defender defender

Apple publicly weighed in on the Mac Defender Trojan horse on Tuesday afternoon, publishing a technical note describing how to remove the malware and stating that an update is on the way.

In the coming days, Apple will deliver a Mac OS X software update that will automatically find and remove Mac Defender malware and its known variants. The update will also help protect users by providing an explicit warning if they download this malware.

The Macalope’s still at a loss as to why the company supposedly won’t let AppleCare technicians say the same darn thing it says in the technical note. If you speak the name of a Trojan horse three time does it appear like Beetlejuice or something?

As any Mac user knows, you turn to a Windows blogger for the real reason behind any Apple action. Take it away, Ed Bott!

I want to give a public shout-out to some brave support reps who risked their jobs to identify a problem and force Apple to respond.

Uh, yeah. OK, the Macalope agrees that the AppleCare reps who spoke up about something that they didn’t think was right do deserve credit. But suggesting that without their public complaints the company would have just sat on the Mac Defender situation and hoped that, like a cold, it would simply go away is assuming facts not in evidence.

It may come as a shock, but Apple has previously responded to malware threats without the help of ZDNet pundits who purport to cover Windows. In the two years since Snow Leopard’s release, the company’s updated the XProtect.plist file for two threats without having to use the the Bottphone or the Bottsignal because, get it, it sounds like “bat.”

But isn’t Bott actually missing some of the point? A large part of the complaint was that Apple wasn’t letting AppleCare reps help users remove Mac Defender. There’s no sign the company’s changed that policy. Apple is still seemingly just directing people to the Apple knowledge base, which already had instructions for how to remove Mac Defender.

Bott, who’s been on 24-hour Mac Defender watch, didn’t post about the announcement that a fix would be coming until a new and slightly more insidious version was released. And, when he did, he initially left out the fact that the new variant only works if you have “Open ‘safe’ files after downloading” selected in Safari. But the horny one’s sure he’s not just trying to make this sound as bad as possible or anything.

Cough.

Of course, the new variant is worse and it’s always been nuts that Safari’s default is to open “safe” files. Despite the convenience, that never should have been the case. “Let anyone from the Internet run an application on my Mac? Sure! Why not! I love the Internet! OH, MY GOD, WHAT IS THAT?!

Bott, who covers Windows remember, has now helpfully posted a video of a Mac getting infected by the latest variant in three clicks—which is just three more than none! The video's nice enough but the Macalope feels Bott really left something on the table by not setting it to the Carmina Burana (iTunes link).

Even with that omission, the difference between the Macalope’s take on this and Bott’s take is largely one of tone. This is how both Bott and the Macalope can agree with Rich Mogull’s piece advising Mac users to pay attention but don’t panic. For his part, Mogull (who’s a friend of the Macalope’s) was rather surprised to see Bott approvingly link to his piece. Probably because he said several things that are seemingly at odds with Bott’s tone like, say, the “don’t panic” part.

Apple appears to be treating this outbreak as if it were a single incident that won’t be repeated.

While the Macalope doesn’t really condone Apple’s response so far (particularly the instructions for AppleCare representatives), he suspects Apple’s keenly aware of the long-term implications of this. It’ll be interesting to see what the company delivers. The existing malware scanning on Snow Leopard doesn’t seem to contain any facility for removing Trojan horses, just for dissuading someone from executing one. So presumably the forthcoming update will not just include new definitions, but also added functionality.

Long-term, the Macalope’s money is still on the Mac App Store-only nuclear solution, but he can’t imagine that’s coming as soon as Lion. If it is, well, then it’s going to be an interesting WWDC.

Say, just out of curiosity, how’s the riot control at the Moscone Center?

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