#Language and Life

#Language and Life

Apple has updated Safari 11.0.2, High Sierra 10.13.2, and iOS 11.2.2

Posted: 08 Jan 2018 10:43 AM PST

Apple has just released the following security updates, to address CPU security vulnerabilities known as Spectre:

  • macOS High Sierra 10.13.2 Supplemental Update, which includes an updated version of Safari 11.0.2.
  • A separate Safari 11.0.2 update, for El Capitan and Sierra.
  • iOS 11.2.2, for iOS 11.

These updates are relatively small, and strongly recommended as protection against the Spectre vulnerability. As usual, they are available via the App Store (for Macs).

Filed under: Macs, Technology

Does xattred 1.0b2 run on El Capitan too?

Posted: 08 Jan 2018 07:47 AM PST

By popular demand, I have built another version of my extended attribute editor, xattred, which is intended to be compatible with all versions of OS X/macOS from El Capitan to High Sierra.

This has one code change, which was required in the function which generates quarantine xattrs to force apps to undergo full Gatekeeper checks. Otherwise it should be identical to the previous beta release. It should thus be functionally the same as 1.0b1, only hopefully it will run on El Capitan.

I’d be very grateful if those running El Capitan, in particular, could test it out, please, and comment below (or by email to me). If this doesn’t do the trick, then I will have to build the app from scratch in order to achieve compatibility, which will take me rather more time.

This new version is here: xattred10b2

Initial reports confirm that this version does now run on El Capitan. I have therefore added it to the Downloads page, and future versions of xattred will be built to run on El Capitan, Sierra, and High Sierra.

Filed under: Macs, Technology

Changing Stories: Ovid’s Metamorphoses on canvas, 69 – Aeneas on Delos

Posted: 08 Jan 2018 04:30 AM PST

During the escape of Aeneas and his family from the burning ruins of Troy, his wife Creusa went missing. Without her, the hero, his young son Ascanius, and aged father Anchises reached a fleet of vessels containing those fleeing Troy, and set sail across the Mediterranean. They soon arrived at Delos.

The Story

Delos is the site of a temple to Apollo, whose priest, also the ruler of the island, is Anius. He shows Aeneas, Anchises and Ascanius the temple and city, and the two trees which the goddess Latona (Greek: Leto) had held onto when she gave birth to the twin deities Apollo and Diana.

Anius then entertains his guests to a feast in their honour. Anchises, an old friend of the king, asks what happened to Anius’ four daughters and one son. Anius replies that he is now almost childless, with his son far away on the island of Andros, and his daughters taken from him by Agamemnon.

Bacchus (Liber) had given his girls the remarkable gift that whatever they touched was transformed into food, wine, and oil:
The Delian god gave to my son the art
of augury; and likewise, Liber gave
my daughters precious gifts exceeding all
my wishes and belief: since, every thing
my daughters touched assumed the forms of corn,
of sparkling wine, or gray-green olive oil.
Most surely, wonderful advantages.
Soon as Atrides, he who conquered Troy
had heard of this (for you should not suppose
that we, too, did not suffer from your storms)
he dragged my daughters there with savage force,
from my loved bosom to his hostile camp,
and ordered them to feed the Argive fleet,
by their divinely given power of touch.

When the girls tried to escape, they were held captive:
Strong chains were brought to hold my daughters’ arms.
Both lifted suppliant hands, which still were free,
to heaven and cried, 'O, Father Bacchus! give
us needed aid!' And he who had before
given them the power of touch, did give them aid —
if giving freedom without human shape
can be called giving aid. — I never knew
by what means they lost shape, and cannot tell;
but their calamity is surely known:
my daughters were transformed to snow-white doves,
white birds of Venus, guardian of your days.

So they were transformed into white doves. Anius and his guests continue to tell tales before retiring to sleep for the night. Then in the morning, Aeneas goes to the oracle of Phoebus, who cryptically tells him to seek his ancient mother, and head for ancestral shores. They then exchange gifts, including a decorated krater (wine bowl) which tells another story.

The image on the krater shows the death of Orion’s daughters in Thebes. Their funeral procession took the bodies to the great square, for their cremation on pyres:
Then from the virgin ashes, lest the race
should die, twin youths arose, whom fame
has named Coroni and they shared
in all the rites becoming for their mothers’ dust.
Even so in shining figures all was shown
inscribed on ancient bronze. The top rim, made
quite rough, was gilded with acanthus leaves.
Presents of equal worth the Trojans gave:
a maple incense casket for the priest,
a bowl, a crown adorned with gold and gems.

After that, Aeneas and his companions sail on to Crete.

The Paintings

These stories have featured in very little art, apart from one early landscape masterpiece.

Johann Wilhelm Baur (1600-1640), Aeneus Meets Anius (c 1639), engraving for Ovid's Metamorphoses, further details not known. Wikimedia Commons.

Johann Wilhelm Baur’s engraving of Aeneus Meets Anius (c 1639), for an illustrated edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, might appear generic, but is actually carefully composed. Aeneas stands upright, his spear almost vertical, in its centre. To the right his father Anchises embraces his old friend Anius, and to the left is the young Ascanius. In the right background is the city, with its imposing temple at the edge.

Claude Lorrain (1604/1605–1682), Landscape with Aeneas at Delos (1672), oil on canvas, 99.6 x 134.3 cm, The National Gallery, London. Wikimedia Commons.

The landscape masterpiece, a singular painting in every respect, is Claude Lorrain’s Landscape with Aeneas at Delos (1672). This was the first of half a dozen works which Claude painted in the final decade of his life, based primarily on Virgil’s account in the Aeneid. Its meticulous details are supported by a coastal landscape of great beauty.

The twin trees at its centre, an olive and palm according to myth, are those which Latona held when she gave birth to Apollo and Diana, and now provide shade for a shepherd and his flock of sheep.

Claude Lorrain (1604/1605–1682), Landscape with Aeneas at Delos (detail) (1672), oil on canvas, 99.6 x 134.3 cm, The National Gallery, London. Wikimedia Commons.

The king and priest Anius is at the left of the group, wearing priestly white, and pointing out those twin trees to his guests. To his right is Anchises in blue, then Aeneas holding his spear, and his young son Ascanius, with a suitably shorter spear in his right hand.

Claude’s fine details tell further stories too.

Claude Lorrain (1604/1605–1682), Landscape with Aeneas at Delos (detail) (1672), oil on canvas, 99.6 x 134.3 cm, The National Gallery, London. Wikimedia Commons.

The relief at the top of the temple, immediately below a couple of casual onlookers, tells the story of Latona’s twins killing the giant Tityus (Tityos), who had tried to rape their mother. Tityus is seen at the right of the relief, fallen down and wounded by the arrows of Diana (centre) and Apollo (left). Similarly to the Titan Prometheus, Tityus was sentenced to spend his time in the Underworld with two vultures feeding on his liver, which regenerated each night.

The story of Latona and the early life of Apollo and Diana, as infants, was told back in Book 6 of the Metamorphoses, where the offending Lycians were turned into frogs. As a reminder, below is one of the paintings showing Latona and her babies there.

Gabriel Guay (1848–1923), Latona and the Peasants (1877), oil, dimensions not known, Château du Roi René, Peyrolles, Provence, France. Wikimedia Commons.

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.

Filed under: General, Language, Life, Painting

WD My Cloud drives need urgent firmware update

Posted: 08 Jan 2018 01:18 AM PST

If you use a WD My Cloud drive, you should check as a matter of urgency that its firmware is fully updated. This is because earlier firmware versions are vulnerable to an exploit which is now widely known, and can be attacked remotely.

Full details have been released by GulfTech Research and Development, and affect firmware versions up to and including 2.30.165. Upgrading to firmware version 2.30.172 or later is believed to secure the drive from this vulnerability.

Firmware updates are available from WD here.

Note that some reports are claiming that My Cloud drives should be disconnected as they are still vulnerable: this does not appear to be the case according to GulfTech or WD. Provided that they are updated to the current firmware release, you should still be able to use them normally.

Filed under: Macs, Technology

Spotlight: using metadata to improve local searches

Posted: 07 Jan 2018 11:30 PM PST

They just don’t make beer/cars/Spotlight like they used to, do they? When Spotlight first came out in 2005, it was wonderful, and found all sorts of things hidden away in places you’d never have guessed. Since then, as well as expanding to cover web search, it has only gone downhill, and just isn’t as good as it used to be.

That is what many Mac users think, and it is very hard to come up with objective evidence either for or against that opinion.

One thing that you can do is boost the chances of Spotlight’s searches finding the most important hits is to manipulate the metadata which Spotlight uses. Without actually changing a document’s content, you can do this by tagging files with keywords and other metadata which are accessible to Spotlight. The ideal metadata to use – because they are independent of the data format used for any file – is stored in extended attributes, xattrs.

At its most basic, this may just involve adding Finder Comments, which are stored in a xattr of type com.apple.metadata:kMDItemFinderComment and readily accessed using the Finder’s Get Info dialog.


However, Apple provides a range of more specific xattrs intended for this purpose, including gems such as com.apple.metadata:kMDItemKeywords, which would seem a logical place to store keywords.

This article looks at the xattrs most suitable for enhancing a file’s Spotlight metadata, across Sierra and High Sierra. To compile this information, I have looked at the performance of a selection of xattrs with Spotlight searches in both versions of macOS, and how well they are preserved when moving files using iCloud Drive.

I have looked at plain text and PDF documents with and without a single use of a very distinctive word syzygy, as my marker. For text files which don’t include that word, I have added it in a xattr, so that it functions as a keyword which doesn’t appear in the document itself. The xattrs I have used include:

  • com.apple.ResourceFork
  • com.apple.metadata:_kMDItemUserTags
  • com.apple.metadata:kMDItemCopyright
  • com.apple.metadata:kMDItemCreator
  • com.apple.metadata:kMDItemDescription
  • com.apple.metadata:kMDItemFinderComment
  • com.apple.metadata:kMDItemHeadline
  • com.apple.metadata:kMDItemKeywords
  • org.openmetainfo.time:kMDItemCopyright
  • org.openmetainfo.time:kMDItemDescription
  • org.openmetainfo.time:kMDItemHeadline
  • org.openmetainfo.time:kMDItemKeywords
  • org.openmetainfo:kMDItemCopyright
  • org.openmetainfo:kMDItemDescription
  • org.openmetainfo:kMDItemHeadline
  • org.openmetainfo:kMDItemKeywords
  • co.eclecticlight.test

For the Resource Fork, I added the magic word as hex content in UTF-8 format; for all the others, I added it as a plain string in a property list:
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">

Spotlight searches consistently found my magic keyword when it was included in any of the com.apple xattrs apart from com.apple.ResourceFork: Spotlight does not, apparently, index any content held in Resource Forks. It also consistently found the magic word when it was included within the content of plain text and PDF documents. Note that this was just a single occurrence among nearly thirty thousand words – 175 KB of text or 184 KB of PDF – which seems pretty good performance to me.

Spotlight search doesn’t appear to index any third party xattrs, such as org.openmetainfo types, or custom types of any kind.

There were, though, two significant problems.

First, as I have noted elsewhere, moving files between Sierra and High Sierra (in either direction) using iCloud Drive strips most xattrs. The xattrs which both worked for Spotlight search and survived iCloud’s censorship were:

  • com.apple.metadata:kMDItemCopyright
  • com.apple.metadata:kMDItemCreator
  • com.apple.metadata:kMDItemDescription
  • com.apple.metadata:kMDItemFinderComment
  • com.apple.metadata:kMDItemHeadline
  • com.apple.metadata:kMDItemKeywords

Stick to those and you shouldn’t go wrong.

Second, Finder Comments are unreliable, and don’t now behave as regular extended attributes. Add a Finder Comment in the Finder, and it appears as a com.apple.metadata:kMDItemFinderComment xattr, which is not stripped by iCloud. But adding a com.apple.metadata:kMDItemFinderComment xattr doesn’t result in its text appearing as a Finder Comment, even when that xattr has been copied in from a file which had that added in the Finder.


This gets even more complex when moving files with Finder Comments between Sierra and High Sierra: the xattr moves fine, but the contents are no longer shown as Finder Comments, and have to be recreated using the Get Info dialog.

I suspect that the xattr is no longer being used to contain the comment, which is actually tucked away in a local Finder database instead. So the com.apple.metadata:kMDItemFinderComment xattr can be used to contain metadata which will be indexed by Spotlight, even though it may not appear in the Finder’s Get Info dialog. That is an unnecessary mess.

The next item on the wanted list is, of course, a convenient GUI app to give easier access to these xattrs. If you can wait just a little while, I might be able to help you with that too.

Filed under: Macs, Technology, xattr