Encrypted disk images

Encrypted disk imagesUsing your personal Mac at the office? Keeping confidential or sensitive data on your Mac? Don’t forget about Disk Copy!
PGP8 came out last week, and this is really a good thing – a firm stance of support from the new PGP Corporation and easy to use crypto for files and email, now for OS X.

GNU Privacy Guard (gpg) works fine on OS X, but it isn’t the easiest thing to use yet, there is no comprehensive GUI that really makes it as nice to use as PGP is. But for those that are comfortable with GPG and want to continue using it, I say go ahead.

The only thing you’re missing is PGP Disk. Or is it?

If all you want is a way to make little encrypted volumes to keep people out of your data, you can do that with the tools Apple has given you. Disk Copy allows you to make new disk images, and you can make them encrypted with AES-128.

I’m not writing this to discuss the merits of using AES-128 for cryptography. I know PGP Disk is more versatile, allows for locking to your PGP key, and other interesting ways to get to your data as well as protect it.

But what I want to point is a neat trick I use to keep my office data from strangers eyes should my Powerbook get pilfered.

I make a 650MB encrypted volume. I store it in my Documents folder, and when I need to do work, I mount it. The nice thing is that not only is the entire disk image encrypted, but it’s super easy to backup data when they are disk images the size of a CD-R.

Got me? My PowerBook is backed up to a fileserver in my house every night, and when I want to check-point my Office documents, I just burn a CD with whichever 650MB disk image I want to backup. You can burn them unencrypted to CD by dragging the contents over, or you can just burn that one Disk Image file to CD/DVD.

I’m sure I’m not the only person doing this; but I was surprised to find that more people weren’t, so I’m sharing it here. Happy encrypting!

(Now if I could figure out a way to keep ~/Documents encrypted)

windows ie and jpeg’s from photoshopI’ve had some people say my photos don’t load on this website. Here’s why:

I will not reinvent the wheel here on this issue, but if you’re interested, or a designer with this problem biting you on the ass:


Steven F. from Panic (makers of audion and transmit et al) has a nice note outlining the whole issue.

vinyl, cd, md, and mp3A few months ago I bought an iPod. 10GB flavor, a bargain at $200 from my local Apple Store as a refurbished item. Little did I now what this little white device (I named it ‘pocketporn’) would change my listening habits.

As I write this story tonight, I have just cleaned my office out in the loft above the livingroom. I am typing on my Powerbook and my other machines are slowly purring and I’m listening to iTunes, as my website reflects at the moment. (I would like to plug Kung-Tunes again, I like this application a lot.)

I have converted a large wooden tower with two bays into an “In” and “Out” stack, and my OS X Server is ripping CD’s for me as quick as it can.

My turntables and mixer are behind me, and I have been ripping a lot of vinyl too, as well as recording hour-long mixes on the decks for taking with me wherever I go. Sometimes I get something really worth sharing.

But tonight looking at the maze of media in my office I realized how slow I was to the MP3 party. I remember never thinking I could get into it, because they sounded really flat to me, and I didn’t think it fair to listen to music in that format.

But MP3 is pretty good in the high bitrates, so my next holdout was space. I didn’t want a Rio or something with compact flash. I liked MiniDisc because I could put more than hour on a disc, and hand it out to people. I still like MD a lot for this reason, it lets me share a mix I made with strangers or friends easily, provided they have an MD player. In the United States it isn’t an established fact that someone does.

When Sony et al introduced MDLP I didn’t upgrade. I have a minidisc deck hooked up to my AV processor. I have two portable player/recorders. I have an MD deck in my car. And I didn’t really care if a disc holds 74 minutes or 74 hours. The most I spend on a mix usually is 70 minutes or so, so MD is great. I also like that I can edit, rearrange titles, and do other good things on an MD that I can’t do on my Philips CD-R deck at home.

I have managed to collect a lot of music in so many different formats. I could be burning CD’s of everything, but I don’t like CD much. I don’t like holding the media, and I hate the jewel cases, which is why I keep CD’s in a jukebox and CD’s in books.

I like records. They’re slow. They sound good. I have a lot of vinyl now, and I really enjoy it a lot. I have many things on vinyl that I don’t have available to me or simply don’t have that same feel to them on CD, so with my iPod I’ve decided to start recording more and more things to MP3 using tools like Peak and FinalVinyl and encoding with iTunes and Audion and making everything good.

I have a rip of Leonard Cohen off my decks that sounds fantastic. I love it. I don’t have Leonard Cohen on CD. I don’t want to buy Leonard Cohen on CD. Everybody Knows I don’t need multiple copies of everything.

Another thing I discovered I like doing is plugging my Powerbook into my AV unit and TV and watching iTunes visuals. It’s really silly but I left it on tonight while I was cleaning and it streamed my MP3’s off the fileserver upstairs and fed my little titanium jukebox music from various genres and of course sounded great in 6 channel stereo.

I never thought I’d get into MP3. I thought it was so lame, but here I am with my In stack and my Out stack and my little Audrey 2 of a fileserver keeps opening her mouth and I keep shoving CD’s into the tray over and over again, eager to bring more music with me tomorrow.

The iPod is a great device, and iTunes is incredible software. I haven’t ripped much vinyl yet to MP3, but I’m working on it. Currently the chain goes:

Turntables -> Berringer mixer -> A/V switch -> Griffin iMic -> Powerbook -> software.

The results have been great with Peak, less so with FinalVinyl, but FinalVinyl isn’t finished and while it is very easy to use, is lacking some of the items in the UI. I can wait. I made my recommendations and praise to Griffin already.

When I get a mix I really like and I’ve been recording it to MD, I can dump that via the iMic into my Powerbook and convert to MP3. I can store it on my iPod or burn it to CD and share with people. Or I can leave it in AIFF for a “pristine” recording – as pristine as it can be with all the A/D conversion going on.

Another funny thing – my turntables have digital outputs on them. No shit. So I saw a USB digital audio interface the other day at MicroCenter and decided to shop around a bit to find one for a better price. Then I could do fully digital transfer of vinyl to my Mac and then to MP3, CD, whatever. This excites me.

Normally I wouldn’t get so involved with this – I was content to make analog and digital MD’s for the last few years. But with the iPod I can carry with me anywhere between 4 and 5 days of mixes, songs, or whatever else I want to put on there. I’m a fan of putting movie audio into MP3 format and carrying it on my iPod too for car trips.

No longer digging through CD’s and MD’s most of my music stays on big storage attached to a fileserver. I rip and mix and burn.

And my records are under their turntables, in big boxes of storage called “crates”. It’s a facinating pair of paradigms.

Posted by emory at 02:03 AM
october 25, 2002
eudora, you suckaIt’s 1994. I need an email client to use this new POP3 thing my ISP offers. I zero in on Eudora. It’s the best!

It’s 2002. I am exploring my options and my needs have grown. Eudora has managed to get slower, dumber, and less elegant. Or have my standards merely changed?

Usually I just use an email program called mutt. It is wicked-fast, can do PGP (GPG) and opens a mailbox faster than a pine user can say “expunging please wait.”

There comes a time in a fella’s life when they start to realize that maybe massive amounts of mail on tap with IMAP isn’t so bad after all – and running a local client has some advantages when you’re using GPRS over BlueTooth to a mobile phone to get your mail, and latency isn’t so hot.

I’m one of those jackasses that never deletes an email.

I like having all of my mail on my mail server though – which is why I stick to mutt or an IMAP client. I think most people gave up on POP3 a long time ago, it sucks. And storing email on your workstation is awful for those of us that use multiple machines, or don’t want to add to our local backups.

Last issue of MacWorld I read had Andy writing about today’s email clients for OS X. Most of them I had at least heard of and probably used. But I hadn’t used Eudora in years, and decided to download the latest beta through a listing at Versiontracker. I read up on it, saw that it had SSL support (great!) and downloaded it and installed the application.

First off, it has advertisements in a little window. That’s fine, if I buy the thing they go away. But a quick look around shows that it hasn’t changed much. It is ugly, and simple. Somehow this simplicity doesn’t lead to speed however – Eudora is slow. Very slow. So slow that I got bored while it synced a 300 message mailbox.

Eudora can use little peppers to show you how ‘angry’ an email is. If I use the word “shit” or “pissed” in an email, peppers show up to warn me that I’m sending a mean email. I’m not impressed, and about half of my emails in my INBOX show some degree of anger. It’s distracting. I wonder how much time they spent getting that useless widget to work instead of making the interface better?

The Addressbook may be great. I find it annoying and hard to use. I don’t like it at all, and it will not use my Apple Addressbook – which it should – for email addresses. It doesn’t show me if they’re logged into AIM via AOL/.Mac, and it looks ugly.

A new mail message opens up a full screen’s height window. When my PowerBook is docked, this means I have about 1200 pixels worth of New Message. I found that odd, and I had to resize it.

The filters are still great, the Spam service is interesting, but I use TMDA so I don’t really need it. Most users of email clients don’t get nearly as infuriated as I do, however, so filtering at the client is probably fine. Mail.app does that too, but it looks cleaner.

For some people, my gripes with Eudora won’t be a big deal. “Fantastic!” they’ll say, “it’s good ol’ Eudora – and it hasn’t changed a bit!”

In my case however, I found myself wondering why I even bothered installing it within 15 minutes of doing so. I wound up having to force quit Eudora and launched Mail.app eagerly to read my email.

Apple has added a lot for OS X users in their software. Not the least of which is Addressbook which not only works great with Mail and iChat, but synchronizes with my iPod, Sony Clie, and mobile phone. Eudora doesn’t do that. I don’t even know if Eudora could do that.

It does support IMAP with SSL again under 10.2 but not 10.1. I don’t know why, both OS’s have OpenSSL and the Mac OS keychain. Eudora didn’t pull my INBOX properly the first time I connected to my IMAP server though, I had to Get Mail again before it started the slow process of checking my INBOX.

Sadly I cannot write much more about Eudora because I simply got fed-up with it so quickly. I used to love Eudora – it was the best I could get long ago, but now it just doesn’t cut it. I don’t want to pay for an email client that looks like it was moved to 2002 in a time machine from 1993. I never got into Claris Emailer despite rave reviews, and I did use QuickMail Pro for about a year but moved to Netscape’s mail client instead once I got into IMAP.

I used to use Apple’s Mail.app occasionally when it was called Mail.app on NeXTStep 3.3 and OpenStep 4.2 for m68k black hardware.

These days Mail.app is a vastly different application, but has set the bar for how email clients should behave and look – and even in features. This is surprising since it’s a bundled freebie – Outlook Express for Windows sucks like a Hoover. I don’t think many people suspect Mail from Apple for OS X should be great, but it is. Everything about it screams “useful” and it is fast. Combine this with Addressbook and gadgets you attach to your Mac with iSync and cables (or BlueTooth piconets!) and you have one heckuva solution for making sure you always have access to what you want.

Eudora falls short. It has for years, it would seem. I lay to rest the email client that started it all for me, and hope I can come back to something from the Qualcomm developers in the future that doesn’t repulse me in the amount of time it takes for me to style my hair.

A correction from the MacWorld site: Mac OS X E-mail Guide | Adam C. Engst
Macworld puts a dozen OS X-native e-mail programs through their paces–transferring, reading, writing, and managing mail. Which is the best program for you?

So it wasn’t Andy, my favorite smart guy. It was someone else. My apologies.

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