OSX :: Curvve Media Blog

1Password 4: A Secure Vault for your Passwords and Confidential Data

Posted by | Software | One Comment

Why use 1Password?

I consider Agilebits' 1Password to be of my most important, and most recommended apps for Mac OSX and iOS. The premise behind 1password is that you can store all your passwords and important confidential data in a single encrypted location. 1Password also integrates with web browsers to automatically log you into websites using your stored passwords. This means that you can select different passwords for multiple sites without having to remember all of them.

1password4_1-800x456


1Password 4 adds additional encryption and security

Keeping all of your confidential data in a single location might seem like a recipe for disaster. So the real question is whether or not there is a reasonable level of security around the thing you are trying to protect – and I believe there is.

1password4-lock-screen

The team at 1password has updated and hardened their encryption algorithms, so easily decrypting your master file probably isn’t something you should be worried about.

According to Agilebits, 1Password 4 boasts a number of important security improvements, including a new keychain design with 256-bit AES encryption keys and data integrity checks that increase resistance to tampering. The design “forestalls many attacks that haven’t even been dreamt of yet,” AgileBits said.


Your security is only as strong as your master password.

With Agilebits handling the fortification of the wall protecting your data, your single greatest potential weakness in the defense of your data is your master password. If you’re unsure about how to select a strong password, please my tips on choosing a strong password.


New in 1Password 4: Password Auditing

1Password 4 has also introduced really handy password auditing feature which will analyze your saved passwords and let you know if any should be changed. Search criteria include weak passwords, duplicated passwords, and passwords older than a certain time period.

1password-4-security-audit


Dropbox and iCloud sync with your devices

Another incredibly important (and useful) feature is the ability to sync your 1password file between computers and devices using Dropbox and iCloud. Need your passport number or child's social security number when you are not at home? No problem, just pull it up with your 1password iPhone app. 1Password's built in sync will help you create, store, and fill-in passwords across Mac and Windows operating system, and mobile phones. Don’t worry, storing your data on the cloud isn’t something you need to worry about because the data is fully encrypted and you’ve selected a strong master password.

1password4-sync-options


Summary

Bottom line, I can’t live without my 1password. It has become my central repository for all critical information including copies of driver’s licenses, passports, and social security information. If I could only recommend a single app to a computer user, this would probably be it.

Price $49.95 | Download the Trial | Download in the Mac App Store

★ Shimo: The Ultimate VPN Client for Mac

Posted by | OSX, Software | No Comments

Shimo

Multi-client VPN Software

ShimoVPN_Icon

If you haven’t tried Shimo, then now is the time to jump on board. Shimo is the perfect VPN software solution for Max OSX. It supports almost every VPN protocol and let’s you organize all of your connections in one place. Shimo has a track record of providing Mac users with a VPN-client solution they can trust and with each version the software continues to mprove. Over the years, there have been improvements in compatibility, minor bug fixes and the addition of some very cool features. Here’s a brief overview of Shimo along with a few highlights of my favorite features.

Why Shimo VPN rocks:

Shimo Compatibility

Let’s take a quick look at the VPN clients and connections the Shimo software supports. As you can see from the list below, Mac users have a nice selection to choose from. This is quite the difference of the first version of Shimo which only allowed for connection with CiscoVPN.

  • CiscoVPN Support
  • AnyConnect Support
  • OpenVPN Support
  • IPSec Support
  • PPTP/L2TP Support
  • Nortel Support
  • Juniper/Netscreen Support
  • SSH Support

Shimo_VPN_profiles

Shimo Features

The following are features this VPN software for MacOSX offers to its users. One thing I love about Shimo, is that the software continues to add more user-friendly features with each updated version.

  • Multiple Concurrent Connections
  • Use Keychain for Passwords
  • Certificate Management
  • Advanced Notifications
  • Automated Connections
  • Global Keyboard Shortcuts

My Highlights

Obviously, the softwares support of a wide-range of VPN protocols is a major highlight of Shimo. However, there are many other features I love about this VPN software. Shimo can connect to a network automatically, store all of your VPN-related files in a central location and lets users customize their notification settings. Shimo also gives Mac users the ability to customize the functionality of the software in many other ways, or you can let the standard settings do all the work for you. This makes it perfect for expert users and easy to use for beginners. If you are using Mac OSX, then quite simple – this is the VPN software you must use.

Overall Rating: 10/10

Price: $29.95 | Trial? Yes | Homepage

★ Parallels 7 destroys VMWare Fusion 4 in Windows and Linux Pen Testing Environments

Posted by | Software | 4 Comments

Parallels 7 vs VMWare Fusion 4

Desktop Virtualization Head to Head for Mac OSX

I started using Parallels 7 to run virtual machine labs to practice my security assessment skills. I've read a ton of reviews comparing Parallels 7 to VMWare Fusion 4, but I wanted to try testing the two myself. I'll save you the time and energy of this article and let you know now that Parallels Desktop 7 smoked VMWare Fusion 4.

Tests Performed

Tools Used

  • BackTrack 5: Linux-based penetration testing arsenal that aids security professionals in the ability to perform assessments in a purely native environment dedicated to hacking.
  • Hackxor: Web app hacking game where players must locate and exploit vulnerabilities to progress through the story
  • Metasploitable – Exploitable VM to test against
  • Windows Vista

Tests Performed

  • Running Backtrack 5 alongside Metasploitable and Hackxor virtual machines
  • Converting pre-made VMWare images to Parallels images

Performance Results

The following machines were using in the performance testing of the two products:

  • 2011 Macbook Pro, 2ghz Core i7
    • 8gb ram, OSX Lion 10.7.2.
    • OSX and Applications running on OWC Mercury Extreme SSD
    • VMs running on 7200 rpm Scorpio Black
  • 2009 Mac Pro, Quad Core Xeon
    • 8gb ram, OSX Lion 10.7.2
    • OS and VMs running on separate 7200 rpm Scorpio Black hard drives
Test 1: Running Backtrack 5
System Details Score
Parallels 7
  • Using only a live instance of Backtrack 5, both virtual machines performed equally.
  • No visible signs of virtual machine lag or OSX performance degradation.
  • Tested with various scanning tools scanning and password brute forcing using John the Ripper.
10
VMWare 4 10
Test 2: Running a Backtrack 5 alongside Windows Vista
System Details Score
Parallels 7
  • OSX and both VMs performed great.
  • Boot up time for Windows Vista VM significantly faster with Parallels.
10
VMWare 4
  • Boot time & performance for Backtrack seemed to be about the same
  • Boot time for Vista VM measured at 3x SLOWER than parallels
  • Noticeable performance lag noticed when trying to run multiple VMs
7
Test 3: Windows Vista Standalone Performance and Lion Integration
System Details Score
Parallels 7
  • Even in a single instance, Parallels 7 performed faster booting Windows Visa
  • Lion Integration performed very well. No complaints or issues.
  • Running heavy applications like Visio booted very quickly. Performance continued as large documents were opened.
  • Startup and Shutdown times seemed normal compared to a normal Windows machine & suspend time only took a few seconds.
9
VMWare 4
  • Boot time & performance for Backtrack seemed to be about the same
  • Boot time for Vista VM measured at 3x SLOWER than parallels
  • Lion Integration performed well. No complaints or issues. 
  • Startup and Shutdown times seemed normal compared to a normal Windows machine & suspend time only took a few seconds.
  • Running heavy applications like Visio started quickly, but performance quickly degraded as large visio documents were opened.Performance became choppy and sluggish.
  • I really like the idea of having the “Start Menu” present from the task bar (as opposed to having it on the dock)
7
Test 4: Converting VMWare images to Parallels (and vice versa)
System Details Score
Parallels 7
  • Converting both Backtrack and Metasploitable VMs to Parallels virtual machines was extremely simple. Just select the VMWare file to be opened and Parallels automatically converts it.
  • Total time to convert the Backtrack 5 image (8gb) was about 90 seconds.

 

10
VMWare 4
  • Conversion process just as painless with VMWare
  • Conversion time for the Backtrack 5 image was about the same at 100 seconds. 

 

10

Final Score – Parallels is the clear winner

Parallels Desktop 7 is the clear winner. VMWare's performance really doesn't even come close. VMWare has some nice features, especially in the department of Windows unity/integration. Unfortunately, VMWare just doesn't cut it when compared to Parallels' overall performance. With Parallels, Bootup and load times are significantly faster. Overall system performance is also better when running virtual machines. In my opinion, Parallels Desktop 7 is the clear winner.

Parallels Giveaway Contest

As a result of the incredible performance tests, I was able to contact Parallels and arrange for a giveaway to our audience. Starting later this week, We will be giving away 4 copies of Parallels Desktop 7 for Mac, 1 per week for the next 4 weeks. Stay tuned for directions and more information on the contest!

★ Quickbooks 2012 for Mac – Intuit delivers a business accounting product worthy of OSX

Posted by | OSX, Software | 4 Comments

Quickbooks 2012

Business Accounting

Quickbooks 2012 icon

 

For those of you that don't like to read long winded reviews, I'll get right to the point: As an OSX user, you probably share the distaste left by Intuit over the previous Quickbooks product releases. In fact, at the time that Quickbooks 2012 was announced, I was in the process of looking at online alternatives. Even though I am still highly annoyed at the fact that Quickbooks still does not support automatic credit card processing, I can honestly say that Quickbooks 2012 has blown me away. Quickbooks 2012 represents a significant improvement in both workflow and user interface. The process flows and smooth UI feel like you are working in a Mac application it's terrific. In my opinion, this version represents a huge leap forward in finance and accounting programs for the Mac.

The Interface

The first thing I noticed is how much smoother the process flow of the application is. Entering an invoice is still just as easy, but the updated UI allows you to quickly click not the payment button, grab the invoice you want from the list on the left, and rapidly enter a payment. The entire prices is incredibly smooth.The one thing I hated about Quickbooks 2011, was the it always took me a good amount of time to figure out where the ‘receive payments' button was located. Now everything is centrally located; it just makes sense.

Quickbooks 2012 screen invoice

Importing Bank Transactions

This process has also gotten considerably easier. I have a stack of unmatched transactions sitting in my register because I haven't wanted to go through them one at a time. QB 2012 is defiantly better at handling unmatched transactions, but it's not quite 100% in my opinion. The new batch ‘Add Multiple' and Renaming Rules options go a long way in speeding up this process. Once you add a vendor to your register once, you can click the Add Multiple button to have quickbooks automatically enter the rest for you.

While this does save a considerable amount of time, a perfect solution would be to have an “Add All” button, which goes ahead and enters everything for you, using a generic spending category. I know it's not proper accounting, but sometimes you need to just get things done and move on. It's certainly a nice to have feature, but by no means a deal breaker for me. The new import functionality is awesome.

Quickbooks 2012 download transactions

Progress Invoicing

At first I just glanced over this, but this is actually a pretty cool feature. I generally collect deposits on projects, but have always just worked off the same invoice. Now, I create an estimate for the entire project, and I can have quickbooks generate a ‘Progress Invoice' for the amount that I would like to bill for. Then I can have separate invoices for each piece that I've built. This will change my workflow a little bit, but I think it's worth it. I think my this is something that my customers will greatly appreciate.

Quickbooks 2012 progressinvoice

Automated Reoccurring Merchant Account Transactions are STILL missing

Can you tell that this is a sore spot for me? Intuit, if you read this review, please add this feature! This is probably the most frustrating part about Quickbooks. Merchant account support has been available for the Mac for 4 years now. Automatic credit card billing has been available for windows for over 5 years. Why can't this feature be added to the Mac version? Doesn't it make sense that the merchant account features of both products would match, especially considering the fact that the only merchant account service available to use within Quickbooks is owned by Intuit? All of my billing is done on the first of the month. Why can't I automate that process of billing my same 20 clients each month so I don't have to manually bill them one at a time?

Overall Impressions

I definitely don't consider myself pro Intuit, as they've certainly given the shaft to Mac OSX users in the past… but I have to give credit where credit is due: Quickbooks 2012 is fantastic. I wouldn't hesitate to pay the upgrade price tag, as this app now towers over all other small business finance apps for OSX.

Ease of Use: 10
Look and Feel: 10
Functionality: 8
Overall Rating: 9

Price: $249 | Trial? yes | Homepage

★ The Hit List for Mac and iPhone – An objective review from an Omnifocus power user

Posted by | iOS, OSX, Software | No Comments

The Hit List is very powerfultask list that is dead simple to use; it's as easy as Wunderlist, and considerably more powerful. While I still continue to use Omnifocus, my wife has made the switch to The Hit List. It's perfectly suited for her needs without giving her the feeling of being overly complex and overbearing. There are a few features that I would still like to see before making a switch, but I am probably in a special class of tech users. I actually think that The Hit List would be a perfect solution for most people.

The wait for an updated desktop and iPhone app of the Hit List has been long overdue, and I think it was worth the wait. The Hit List's sync is blazing fast and extremely reliable. It's a great solution. Interestingly enough, if it wasn't for Cultured Code's lack of OTA sync for Things, I probably would never have switched away from it. I guess this is a true tale of the Tortoise and the Hare.

The Hit List for Mac

Simple, Powerful Task Manager with OTA Sync

The hit list logo

The Hit List is very powerfultask list that is dead simple to use; it's as easy as Wunderlist, and considerably more powerful. While I still continue to use Omnifocus, my wife has made the switch to The Hit List. It's perfectly suited for her needs without giving her the feeling of being overly complex and overbearing. There are a few features that I would still like to see before making a switch, but I am probably in a special class of tech users. I actually think that The Hit List would be a perfect solution for most people.

The wait for an updated desktop and iPhone app of the Hit List has been long overdue, and I think it was worth the wait. The Hit List's sync is blazing fast and extremely reliable. It's a great solution. Interestingly enough, if it wasn't for Cultured Code's lack of OTA sync for Things, I probably would never have switched away from it. I guess this is a true tale of the Tortoise and the Hare.

  • Clean interface; Does not seem overwhelming
  • Very well organized.
  • Entering tasks is fast and the keyboard shortcuts give it a very fluid feel
  • Switching between list and context mode is very nice and well thought out.
  • Printing looks as great on paper as it does on screen. This was a very big deal for my wife who likes to take paper with her.
  • The Hit List also syncs with iCAL! This hasn't worked for Omnifocus for quite some time. It's a feature that I really miss.
  • Over-the-air sync is lightning fast.

Again, the entire process is very simple and streamlined. The whole thing is incredibly well done.

Suggestions / Wish list

  • The Repeating tasks feature is hard to find. I had written a portion of this article on the lack of repeating tasks before I found out that The Hit List actually supported it. I would consider adding a ‘Repeat' button in the taskbar.
  • Project Start / Due dates. I would like to be able to set a start or due date for an entire task list, rather than having to assign it to each task.
  • Predictive tag/context feature can be confusing to someone who doesn't understand what is going on. I would consider turning that off by default.
  • There should be a way to define a default list for contexts or tags (e.g. Tasks in my Walgreens and Target contexts always fall under my ‘Shopping' list)
  • Today shows tasks in the “next three days”. This is kind of confusing and annoying. The today view should only show you tasks that are due today. Upcoming should show you what's coming next.
  • Add a Time field to the start and due options. This is useful for keeping appointments, or scheduling a task at a particular point in the day (e.g, ‘Take out Trash')
  • Add the ability to enter multiple tasks in the Quick Entry window. Hit enter to cycle to the next task, or Esc when done entering tasks.
  • Setting to hide tasks that have not started (or will not start for x amount of days). For example, I have a Bills list, which contain a list of monthly repeating bills that need to be paid. There should be an active filter to not show items which have not yet started. Seeing every bill in the list becomes confusing.

Ease of Use: 9

Look and Feel: 10

Functionality: 7

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

Price: $49.95 | Trial? Yes | Homepage | App Store Link

The Hit List for iPhone

The hit list iphone

The iPhone app was definitely worth the wait. It's not as full featured as I would like, but again, for someone like my wife, it's perfect. However, considering this is the first release of the app, I understand that it's just a starting point. Overall, it is very well laid out and extremely easy to use. The only downside that I've found is that it seems to be extremely buggy; the app crashes quite a bit for me.

  • The rapid entry feature is by far my favorite feature of the iPhone app. All other GTD companies should take not of this feature as I consider it to be ground-breaking and simple.
  • The interface is very well designed and streamlined.
  • The batch moving feature is very useful.

Suggestions / Wish List

  • Push Notifications for due tasks.
  • Ability to reduce the font size of tasks of the tasks lists and folders. The size 16 font is a bit large. I would probably drop the icon size, too.
  • When looking at a task, you should be able to click a field to edit it, rather than clicking edit, then the field name
  • An iPad app
  • Buggy

Overall, The Hit List is a great app which, depending on your specific needs, you should definitely consider.

Ease of Use: 9

Look and Feel: 8

Functionality: 6

Overall Rating: 7/10

Price: $9.99 | Trial? Yes | Homepage | App Store Link

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