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macOS 10.13.4 Security Update 2018-001 and Safari 11.1 (updated)

Posted: 24 Apr 2018 10:51 AM PDT

Apple has just released macOS 10.13.4 Security Update 2018-001, which fixes two vulnerabilities in Crash Reporter and the handling of URLs in text messages. Despite those apparently minor fixes, it is 1 GB in size, and available for High Sierra only, through the App Store.

Safari 11.1 is available as an update from the App Store for El Capitan, Sierra, and High Sierra, and contains two security fixes to WebKit, to improve handling of crafted web content.


High Sierra Security Update 2018-001 does, as I suspected, contain a great deal more than fixes for those two vulnerabilities, plus Safari 11.1. It is, in effect, macOS Among the system tools updated are Apple RAID Utility, System Image Utility, and SetupAssistant.

A huge number of Extensions (KEXTs) are replaced, including apfs.kext, although the APFS filesystem itself doesn’t appear to have changed. Many public and private frameworks have been updated, as have many command tools in the various bin and sbin directories. I cannot see any app updates in /Applications or /Applications/Utilities, though, apart from Safari.

There has been little if any change in the status of those apps and tools which remain 32-bit. In particular, /System/Library/QuickTime components remain 32-bit, and have not been replaced with 64-bit versions.

My MacBook Pro 2017 didn’t undergo any EFI firmware update, and as there was no matching update for El Capitan or Sierra, I doubt that any EFI firmware changes were made. Until I can check a standalone installer, though, I cannot be sure of that.

Changing Stories: Ovid’s Metamorphoses on canvas, 85 – The Age of Augustus

Posted: 24 Apr 2018 04:30 AM PDT

With Julius Caesar transformed into a star following his assassination, Ovid ends the fifteenth and final book of his Metamorphoses with some remarks in praise of his current emperor, Augustus, and his own aspirations to immortality.

The Story

Before the transformation of Julius Caesar into a star, Jupiter foretells some of the accomplishments of his adopted heir, Augustus, then still known as Octavius or Octavian:
“The valiant son will plan revenge on those
who killed his father and will have our aid
in all his battles. The defeated walls
of scarred Mutina, which he will besiege,
shall sue for peace. Pharsalia’s plain will dread
his power and Macedonian Philippi
be drenched with blood a second time, the name
of one acclaimed as 'Great' shall be subdued
in the Sicilian waves. Then Egypt’s queen,
wife of the Roman general, Antony,
shall fall, while vainly trusting in his word,
while vainly threatening that our Capitol
must be submissive to Canopus’ power.
Why should I mention all the barbarous lands
and nations east and west by ocean’s rim?
Whatever habitable earth contains
shall bow to him, the sea shall serve his will!
With peace established over all the lands,
he then will turn his mind to civil rule
and as a prudent legislator will
enact wise laws. And he will regulate
the manners of his people by his own
example. Looking forward to the days
of future time and of posterity,
he will command the offspring born of his
devoted wife, to assume the imperial name
and the burden of his cares. Nor till his age
shall equal Nestor’s years will he ascend
to heavenly dwellings and his kindred stars.”

Ovid then looks ahead to Augustus’ own future apotheosis:
far be that day — postponed beyond our time,
when great Augustus shall foresake the earth
which he now governs, and mount up to heaven,
from that far height to hear his people’s prayers!

In a brief epilogue to the fifteen books and many transformations, Ovid considers his own fate, and hopes for everlasting fame:
Wherever Roman power extends her sway
over the conquered lands, I shall be read
by lips of men. If Poets’ prophecies
have any truth, through all the coming years
of future ages, I shall live in fame.

The Paintings

The emperor Augustus seems to have preferred to see himself in statues and on coins, and more recent visual art has tended to respect that. A few fine paintings have, though, shown episodes from his reign, from 27 BCE to 14 CE.

Louis Gauffier (1762–1801), Cleopatra and Octavian (1787), oil on canvas, 83.8 x 112.5 cm, Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland. Wikimedia Commons.

Cleopatra’s legendary beauty has been expressed in paint by several artists, among them Louis Gauffier, whose Cleopatra and Octavian of 1787 shows the young Augustus and Queen Cleopatra conversing under the watchful eye of Julius Caesar’s bust. Cleopatra allied herself with Antony, and was eventually defeated at the Battle of Actium, which ended years of civil war in Rome. Antony fell on his sword, and Cleopatra is reputed to have killed herself with the bite of an asp.

Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824–1904), The Age of Augustus, the Birth of Christ (c 1852-54), oil on canvas, dimensions not known, location not known. Image by Wmpearl, via Wikimedia Commons.

It is Jean-Léon Gérôme who reminds us of the great events which were taking place at the eastern end of the Mediterranean during the reign of Augustus, in The Age of Augustus, the Birth of Christ (c 1852-54). The emperor sits on his throne, overseeing a huge gathering of people from all over the Roman Empire. Grouped in the foreground in a quotation from a traditional nativity is the Holy Family, whose infant son was to transform the empire in the centuries to come.

Sadly for Ovid, and even Virgil, Gérôme’s throng doesn’t appear to include distinguished poets from the Augustan age.

Jean-Joseph Taillasson (1745—1809), Virgil reading the Aeneid to Augustus and Octavia (1787), oil on canvas, 147.2 × 166.9 cm, The National Gallery (Bought, 1974), London. Courtesy of and © The National Gallery, London.

Several painters have, though, shown Augustus’ favourite Virgil at the emperor’s court. Jean-Joseph Taillasson’s Virgil reading the Aeneid to Augustus and Octavia from 1787 shows the poet, at the left holding a copy of his Aeneid, reading a passage to the emperor Augustus and his sister Octavia. Augustus has been moved to tears by the passage praising Octavia’s dead son Marcellus, and his sister has swooned in her emotional response.

Artist not known, The Great Cameo of France (c 50 CE), five-layered sardonyx cameo, 31 x 26.5 cm, Cabinet des médailles, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris. Image by Jastrow and Janmad, via Wikimedia Commons.

Ovid was in no position to commit Augustus’ eventual death and apotheosis to verse, but this is shown in an exquisite sardonyx cameo known as The Great Cameo of France from the first century CE. Augustus is here being brought up to the gods at the top of the scene.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696–1770), Maecenas Presenting the Liberal Arts to Emperor Augustus (1743), oil on panel, 70 x 89 cm, Hermitage Museum Государственный Эрмитаж, Saint Petersburg, Russia. Wikimedia Commons.

Although a fan of Virgil and a minor author in his own right, Augustus was not a strong patron of the arts. Until 8 BCE, his friend Gaius Maecenas acted as cultural advisor to Augustus, and was a major patron of Virgil. Tiepolo’s Maecenas Presenting the Liberal Arts to Emperor Augustus from 1743 shows Maecenas at the left introducing an anachronistic woman painter and other artists to the emperor.

Ovid’s major patron was Marcus Valerius Messalia Corvinus, and is thought to have been friends with poets in the circle of Maecenas. But all this became irrelevant when he offended Augustus, and in 8 CE was banished to Tomis, on the western coast of the Black Sea, at the north-eastern edge of the Roman Empire.

Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), Ancient Italy – Ovid Banished from Rome (1838), oil on canvas, 94.6 x 125 cm, Private collection. Wikimedia Commons.

It is perhaps JMW Turner who has best epitomised this in his Ancient Italy – Ovid Banished from Rome, which he exhibited in 1838. In a dusk scene more characteristic of Claude Lorrain’s contre-jour riverscapes, Turner gives a thoroughly romantic view of Ovid’s departure by boat from the bank of the Tiber.

Ovid died in Tomis in 17 or 18 CE, and by a quirk of fate his banishment from the city of Rome was not formally revoked until 2017.

But Ovid saw his road to immortality not by apotheosis, rather through his work being read, and living on in the minds of those countless readers. In that, he undoubtedly succeeded: his Metamorphoses and other poems continue to be read, both in their original Latin and in translation into many languages.

I hope that this series has shown how his Metamorphoses also inspired visual artists over a period of two millenia to depict the stories which he told – and how Ovid’s poetry has itself been transformed into a vast gallery of paintings.

The English translation of Ovid above is taken from Ovid. Metamorphoses. Tr. Brookes More. Boston. Cornhill Publishing Co. 1922, at Perseus. I am very grateful to Perseus at Tufts for this.

What’s that? Using magic on your Mac

Posted: 23 Apr 2018 11:30 PM PDT

Most files and packages – folders cunningly disguised as files – have extensions and other telltales which reveal what they are. If it has the extension .txt or .text and QuickLook previews its contents as text, you can be confident that’s what it is.

But every so often, you’ll come across one or more files which are more obscure. QuickLook doesn’t want to know them, and the Finder’s Get Info dialog isn’t much more helpful. This article looks at the definitive way to discover exactly what every file and Finder item is, and the fascinating ‘magic’ system which makes that possible: using the command tool file.

file is very simple to use. Just give it a file to inspect, and it’ll tell you what it knows about it.
file /sbin/autodiskmount
should return something like
/sbin/autodiskmount: Mach-O executable i386
meaning that is a command tool which is 32-bit only.

It’s a bit less helpful with app bundles, though:
file /Applications/
/Applications/ directory
rather than telling you that it’s an app bundle. To find out more, you’ll have to point file at the app code itself:
file /Applications/
then reveals
/Applications/ Mach-O 64-bit executable x86_64

So, if nothing else, file is a useful way to check Mach-O code files to see if they’re still 32-bit.

The Finder isn’t always good at grokking different types of text file. A LaTeX document named test.tex, for example, will just be shown as a text file. Point file at it, though, and you’ll be informed
test.tex: LaTeX 2e document text, ASCII text

file has plenty of options if you want to do more sophisticated things with it, like retrieve the classic file type and creator code, return MIME type strings rather than normal results, or look inside compressed files. But most of the time, the plain command and file path will be all that you’ll want to use.

So how does file do so much better than the Finder?

Its man page, one of the best you’ll ever find, explains that file uses three unrelated systems to establish what the file is. The first is to ask macOS for the file attributes, which is what the Finder does too.

If that doesn’t identify the file properly, it then turns to magic, or, to be more precise, the file’s magic number. This is the first few bytes of the file. It matches those against the patterns it holds in /usr/share/file/magic.mgc, which it compiles in turn from the definitions kept in files inside /usr/share/file/magic. You can browse those text files if you’re interested: they contain many fascinating tidbits of information, and can be helpful to developers at any level.

If attributes and magic can’t tell what the file is, file has one more trick up its sleeve: it peeks. This works best for telling the different forms of text, like ASCII and UTF-8, apart.

If you write code in Swift 4, it’s not hard to use magic yourself, although it is easier to read the whole of a file than just its first few bytes.

I’m sure there are some magic definitions which you could import, but in my case it was quicker just to add the two that I needed.
let theMagic32: UInt32 = 0xfeedface
let theMagic64: UInt32 = 0xfeedfacf

When you have confirmed that a URL does refer to a file,
let theFHandle = try FileHandle.init(forReadingFrom: theSourceURL)
gets a traditional FileHandle for the URL.

let theMagic = theFHandle.readData(ofLength: 4)
reads just the first 4 bytes of the file, containing that magic number, into Data. Then ensure that you’ve actually got 4 bytes of Data:
if !theMagic.isEmpty {
if theMagic.count > 3 {
let theMagicNumber = theMagic.withUnsafeBytes { (ptr: UnsafePointer<UInt32>) -> UInt32 in return ptr.pointee }

returns the 4 bytes of Data as a UInt32, which you can test to see if it is theMagic32 with
if theMagicNumber == self.theMagic32 {
and so on.

It’s disappointing and puzzling that Apple doesn’t enhance the Finder’s Get Info dialog with the addition of magic checks, but at least they’re readily accessible in Terminal.