Archive for October 27, 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017

Biskus APFS Capture

Thomas Tempelmann:

The first and only program to read APFS volumes for forensics analysis (DFIR).

While there are many programs available for capturing disk contents in general, Biskus APFS Capture is currently the only one that performs these operations on Apple’s new APFS file system format.

It does not yet support encrypted volumes (even if the password is known).

Panorama X’s Take on Subscriptions


After your free trial, you can get started with Panorama X for as little as fifteen dollars up front, and ongoing use is as little as $5/month. For months when you don’t use it, you pay nothing. There are no recurring payments — we don’t keep your credit card on file and you are in control at all times (all payments are made from within the application, under your control).

So you essentially pre-pay for a certain number of months, and you aren’t billed for months with less than an hour of use, e.g. if you accidentally launch the app or just need to look up something quickly. It’s $8.33/month for one year, down to $5/month for five years. After the “subscription” expires, the app keeps working but switches to nag mode. All in all, this seems like a fair deal, although it’s considerably more complicated to implement than regular subscriptions or the traditional software model.

Jim Rea:

Our goal is to make it easier for new users to come onboard with Panorama. In the past, the only way a new user could start using Panorama was by paying hundreds of dollars up front. Sure, we’ve always had a free trial, but for a full featured product like Panorama, it often takes more than 15-30 days to really fully understand how and if it will fit into your workflow. But with the old model, the user had to take on all the risk and put up a big chunk of cash up front. Understandably, a lot of potential users were reluctant to do that. We’d like to see lots of new users start using Panorama X, so we gave a lot of thought to how we could help users around this roadblock.


In addition, I think subscriptions in general have gotten a bad name because quite a few companies have made a big price hike at the same time that they switched to the subscription model. In some cases the software now costs the same per year that it used to cost to purchase. We haven’t done that.

Ultimately, I think this new system is a big bet on our part that customers will like Panorama X and find it productive for them. If they don’t, our revenue will dry up, and we won’t have banked a big up front payment. We’ve set this system up in a way that we have to earn our keep on an ongoing basis. If the software isn’t great, we’ve got nowhere to hide.

Previously: Productivity Apps and Subscription Pricing.

Update (2017-11-07): Joe Kissell:

For those of you who were not already familiar with it, Panorama is to databases as Nisus Writer Pro is to word processors. That is to say: it doesn’t merely get the job done; it’s endlessly flexible, customizable, and programmable, so you can make it do whatever you need it to do. Just as Nisus Writer Pro can slice and dice text in any conceivable way, Panorama can do the same with structured data.

The only problem — and it was a pretty big one — was that for years, Panorama had been increasingly behind the technological curve. Panorama 6 wasn’t a 64-bit app, it didn’t support Unicode, it had a homely and old-fashioned user interface, and it suffered from a long list of other limitations that were more and more frustrating for people using recent versions of macOS. Developer Jim Rea decided it was time to rebuild the app from the ground up, and it has been a long but rewarding process. The new version has virtually all the capabilities of the old one — and many more — without those drawbacks, and in a form that’s both more comfortable to use and far more sustainable.

How to Accept Payments for Your Digital Products

Daniel Alm:

In this article, I will outline the common payment options for digital products and their individual advantages and disadvantages. This is from the perspective of a Mac developer, but apart from the licensing aspect, it applies to all other digital products as well, including SaaS subscriptions and online courses.


If you are based in the US, you might get away with ignoring the EU’s VAT rules altogether, but I don’t recommend that. You would be in good company there — looks like Panic and The Omni Group have just that approach — but I still don’t recommend it. (I’m German. We really like to avoid risks.)

I’m using FastSpring and am happy with the service, though the fees are higher than I’d like.

Sadly, Frank Illenberger is selling (via Michael Love).

Previously: More International Taxes on Software Sales, Kagi, RIP.

One-Pixel Attack for Fooling Deep Neural Networks

Jiawei Su et al. (PDF, via Thomas Lahore):

Recent research has revealed that the output of Deep neural networks(DNN) is not continuous and very sensitive to tiny perturbation on the input vectors and accordingly several methods have been proposed for crafting effective perturbation against the networks. In this paper, we propose a novel method for optically calculating extremely small adversarial perturbation (few-pixels attack), based on differential evolution. It requires much less adversarial information and works with a broader classes of DNN models. The results show that 73.8% of the test images can be crafted to adversarial images with modification just on one pixel with 98.7% confidence on average. In addition, it is known that investigating the robustness problem of DNN can bring critical clues for understanding the geometrical features of the DNN decision map in high dimensional input space. The results of conducting few-pixels attack contribute quantitative measurements and analysis to the geometrical understanding from a different perspective compared to previous works.

Inside Amazon Web Services

David Pogue:

Over the last decade, Amazon has quietly built up the world’s largest cloud-services company, called AWS (Amazon Web Services). In terms of income and profit, it’s much bigger than (the division that sells stuff by mail-order).

It’s also much bigger than its rivals, which include Microsoft, IBM, and Google; in fact, AWS says that it’s bigger than its next 14 competitors combined.


POGUE: Snowball, you call it?

WOOD: It’s 100 terabytes of storage. And you just connect this up to your data center, load your data on. And then you just physically ship it back to us, and then we load it into the cloud from our data center.


POGUE: That leads into my other question, which is that 70% of the cloud, 70% of the world’s internet traffic, flows through data centers in Loudoun County, Virginia. Should we be worried about that concentration?

WOOD: No, that data is backed up across multiple different physical locations. And we do that to limit the blast radius. If something does happen, or we have a power event, or there’s a flood in one specific location, that data is held redundantly in other locations, as well. So the cloud just keeps running.

Update (2017-10-28): Tim Bray:

Some of our services are cooler than others, but what I think customers care about most is confidence that the services, cool or boring, will be there 24/7/365. What that means is that everything has to be automated, and much of the most brilliant engineering at AWS, done by some of the smartest people, does its work behind the scenes where nobody will ever see it.


If you’re the kind of person who’s OK with spending a lot of time constructing carefully-written narratives, and being in meetings that start with 20+ quiet minutes while every one reads the narrative, you’ll like working here, and if not, definitely not.