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The evolution of OS X malware.

Is there any (Mac) OS X-specific malware around?

Oh yes. But for some odd reason I haven’t said anything interesting on this topic for quite a while…

The last time was two and a half years ago. Yes, that’s how long it’s been since the global Flashback worm outbreak that infected 700 thousand Macs worldwide. The security industry made quite a bit of noise about it (and quickly disabled the Flashback botnet), but since then – mostly silence… It might seem to some that ever since there’s been a complete lull on the Mac-malware front and not one bit of iMalware has disturbed Apple Bay’s calm waters…

But they’d be wrong…

Mac malware is not amyth, they do exist

Sure, if you compare the threat levels of picking up some malware on different platforms, at the top of the table, by a long way, as ever, is the most widely used platform – Microsoft Windows. Quite a way behind it is Android – a relatively new kid on the block. Yep, over the past three years the cyber-vermin has been seriously bombarding the poor little green robot with exponentially increasing levels of malicious activity. Meanwhile, in the world of iPhones and iPads, except for very rare cyber-espionage attacks, there have been hardly any successful attacks thereon (despite using various exotic methods). It’s a similar story with Macs too – things are relatively peaceful compared to other platforms; but of late there have been… stirrings – about which I’ll be talking in this post.

Briefly, a few numbers – kinda like an executive summary:

  • The numbers of new for-Mac malware instances detected in the last few years are already in the thousands;
  • In the first eight months of 2014, 25 different ‘families’ of Mac malware were detected;
  • The likelihood of an unprotected Mac becoming infected by some Mac-specific-unpleasantness has increased to about three percent.

Read on: let’s dig deeper and look at the situation from a malware expert PoV…

Hungry for hotness in Hungary.

I’d heard plenty of good stuff about Hungarian spas and hot springs. And I’d been to the country many times since first visiting it in 1998. But somehow there was just never the time to immerse myself in its thermal waters. But last weekend I made amends. And what can I say? It’s mega-cool hot! Alas, I didn’t have much room for my camera when in my trunks, so almost all the photos here are from the official site of the particular Hungarian thermal paradise we visited…

Soooo, the Gellért Baths in Budapest…

The world's best hot springs

Read on: A palace with thermal baths…

Suitcase astray – not ok.

There’s an unusual feeling you get… when you sit by the window on a plane waiting for the end of boarding and your flight to begin, observing the workers shoving the luggage into the hold of the plane… when suddenly you see that they’re all done and walk off… but a single suitcase remains of the ground – all on its lonesome. Big and black. And it’s YOUR suitcase!

Washington-Zurich-Budapest

Hold on… that looks familiar…

This is, indeed, not ok…

Floating history.

From a tourist’s perspective Washington, D.C. is far from the most interesting city in the world. I’d even go so far as to say it’s somewhat boring.

The Washington monument, Lincoln Memorial, White House, National Air and Space Museum, and various other museums… and that, to me, seems just about it for the average tourist. So, if you’re ever stateside but don’t have loads of days to fill, I think it’s safe to pass on this place and get stuck into others, like San Francisco and New York, and then perhaps Arizona (in particular the Grand Canyon), California (especially the redwoods), and the volcanic north-west in Washington state. And if it’s July-September – why not Alaska? I could go on, of course, but the places I’ve listed I think are among the best.

But I was in D.C. this time, and in need of some touristic tidbits to tide me over for a day. It wasn’t looking promising… But then…

To my astonishment, I discovered that in Washington, D.C. there are a few discreet places which are full to the brim with treasures relating to the not-so-long but oh-so rich history of the U S of A and its empire. I visited one of them, and was bowled over by what it had to offer. It was the USS Sequoia, the former presidential yacht.

Presidential Yacht Sequoia

Read On: proudly serving the presidents…

Like sardines… ‘United’ in a can.

At first I was going to call this post something like ‘cattle wagon’. Then I had a think, and figured that’d be too malicious. Kinda like, ‘Shock, horror! The beluga caviar isn’t spread evenly here’; i.e., hardly appropriate outside my little world, really :).

Basically, this is just a bit of a whinge. One of those petty peeves we all have from time to time due to perceived poor levels of service…

So, there I was, sat on one of eight (8) seats in a row – in business class – on United Airlines’ UA988 flight from Frankfurt to Washington, and I was thinking back to a wholly different avia experience – flying from Singapore to New York on Singapore Airlines. That flight took 18 hours – non-stop (!), and there were just four seats to a row (but of course those seats were priced somewhat differently).

But on United the seats were arranged 2-4-2, to make up eight-to-a-row. What made things worse was that half the passengers in the row were faced forward, the other half – backward. I was lucky enough to be faced backwards, and, well, sitting backwards on a plane is one of the few things in this world that really irritate me. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it was because they drummed it into me when younger that sitting like that on a train is somehow not right… I dunno.

United Arilines

Read on: Singapore Airlines vs United Airlines…

Cuisine on the road, pt. 1: Kamchatka

Some time ago I was asked about what I pack in my suitcase on my frequent long trips round the globe – to kinda come up with a list of essential travel items I really can’t do without. Yeah, I thought – I’d seen some of those lists before – real hi-tech affairs. Mine sure is a lot simpler…

So, a few initial thoughts on this:

First: The more you travel, the lighter the suitcase. That’s perfectly logical: only the experienced traveler knows how to pack minimally – to do away with stuff you deffo won’t need at this or that destination. The experienced traveler also knows how a few extra kilos are a few extra kilos too many when walking ever greater distances to get to your gate in today’s hyper-airports.

Second: My list of ‘hi-tech’ kit is limited to a Sony RX-100 camera, a Lenovo X1 laptop, and some Bose QuietComfort 3 headphones – nothing top-of-the-range, but very reliable. Also, no super-duper camera lenses, no fancy smartphone, no video camera, no quad-copter, no tripod…

(Er, see – there’s my list. Didn’t take long, did it?)

Third: I’m quite sure you don’t want the low-down on my jeans, shirt and sock situation on the road.

No, something different, better than that was needed! And then it dawned on me…

…So here we are – the first installment of my new ‘column’ – ‘Cuisine on the road’: Gastronomical mini-guides to dinner-table food furnishings from different corners of the globe!

First up – a recent table in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, where we spent a day before our recent Kuril expedition

So, here we go…:

Cuisine on the road

Read on: the land of fish and seafood…

The Kurils: Why, where, how.

So, where on earth did the idea of a cruise, not around tourist-friendly tropical islands, but around mostly uninhabited – for a reason – polar-esque ones, come from?

It’s quite simple really…

My favorite place for an annual August ‘hard reset’ is Kamchatka: volcanos, geysers, hot springs, bears, and other similarly extreme extremities. But… well, I’ve done Kamchatka – and more than once. So something different but very similar was needed…

Now, every time I’m on Kamchatka the locals there are always saying “but on the Kurils they’re much better…”, and so on. Then kindred spirit Olga Rumyantseva had already been on the Kurils and wouldn’t stop raving about them… So my curiosity had been growing and growing for quite some years – until it reached a critical mass and it was decided, er, by moi – that the next annual August reboot trip would be to the Kurils.

After deciding where to go – about a year ago – the preparation for the Kuril trip began, only to end a year later. The ‘who’s going’ was established (mostly lovers of extreme tourism and extreme nature appreciation), the optimal route was calculated, the Kuril territory was surveyed, and the most suitable vessel for the trip was selected. Crucially, all participants were informed that this wasn’t going to be gym>beach>pina colada>spa>Cuba libre>paperback>single malt…tourism. This was wild marine-based tourism in a harsh climate on harsher islands, with neither Internet nor cell coverage.

Back to basics, back to nature.

Kuril Islands

Read on: 20 days on the Athens..

Onekotan: None better than.

I’m not sure why, but for some reason volcanos are my fave natural phenomena.

I’ve clambered up scores around the globe, and seen even more from up above in helicopters – more again from the side. The views they all provide are just breathtaking. Santorini, Mount Fuji, Gorely (before the eruption), Mutnovka, Ksudach… I’ll have to tot them all up one day.

All volcanos are unique in their own special way, and each is beautiful in its own special way, so to compare and rank them is no simple task.

However, now I know which volcano tops my list of the best of the best.

Easy: it’s the Krenitsyn volcano on the Kuril island of Onekotan. It’s also a rather exclusive volcano – just for the more discerning connoisseurs of volcanism; after all – it doesn’t even have its own Wiki page in English :).

The views it has in store are absolutely magical.

The almost perfectly round caldera is colossal – stretching seven (7) kilometers across. Inside the caldera there’s a correspondingly capacious lake, out of which peeps the cone of a new volcano (height 1324m). The volcano’s surrounded by the sea on all sides; the lake’s at a height of around 400 meters above sea level, and its depth is about 200 meters. That’s the basic run-down of this fantastical phenomenon of nature.

Kuril islands, Krenitsyn volcano

Read on: The view from up above is also impressive…

Kuril KLimate.

To get to see real tundra it turns out you don’t need to go to the Far North (or far south – say, to Tierra del Fuego); for something very similar to tundra conditions can be found in perfectly moderate latitudes. For example, on the Kurils.

Kuril islands

Here on the Kurils Mother Nature must have been having an off-day when putting the finishing touches to their climate. On one side of the island there’s the cold Pacific Ocean; on the other – the bitterly freezing Sea of Okhotsk. If the wind blows from the south it can be warm and humid; if from the north – a Siberian chill can take over. So it gets a bit muddled. But generally in winter here it’s always very cold – with snow up to the waist; while in summer it’s just so-so cold – but always humid, plus foggy, plus drizzly, plus rainy.

Read on:

Gobsmacked on Kunashir.

Besides cha-cha, on Kunashir island there’s still plenty to check out…

…Ludicrous lava columns on the coast, the fantastic fumaroles of Mendeleyeva volcano, and the magnificent mud baths in Golovnina’s caldera, for example. Bathing in a 30°С muddy lake didn’t quite do it for me, but the volcanism of Mendeleyeva – especially the lava columns there – now that was something else. Quite simply gobsmackingly unforgettable.

Kuril islands

Read on: Basalt columns on Kunashir – breathtaking!…