2012.05 History: April Q&A (Selected)

Dave Weston, Quizmaster

Q: Recently there was a lot of coverage (newspaper, websites) about a new Mac virus that seemed to be a real threat. What do I need to know?

A: The recent Mac "virus" was actually a Java trojan that connected infected Macs to a server that allowed hackers to connect to the infected machines, upload and download files, take screenshots, and even take over the infected machines. A followup trojan used a security flaw in pre-2008 Microsoft Word to infect Macs. Apple issued an update to Java via Software Update to combat the first trojan, and updating your version of MS Word / Office will protect your Mac from the second.

Q: What is Java, anyway? Is it the same thing as JavaScript?

A: Java is a cross-platform programming language or engine that is used to code tools that work in a web environment. Java is what makes parts of complex webpages work, say for example drop-down menus from which you can choose your state of residence or your gender (if you're filling out an online survey). JavaScript is minimally related to Java, but contains a smaller, simpler set of commands and tends to be easier for first-time programmers to learn. However, JavaScript apps are compiled at runtime (when you open a webpage), whereas Java apps are compiled prior to runtime.

Editor's note: For more information visit: 

Q: What is that weird square picture you see on ads and coupons? It looks like a UPC symbol.

A: It's called a Quick Response Code, or QR code for short. It was first invented by a subsidiary of Toyota to track vehicles throughout the assembly process. It's now widely used for advertising purposes, thanks to the ability of smartphones to "read" the patterns in a QR code like a UPC symbol and link viewers to a company's website for product information and coupons or deals.

Q: I have an old "hockey puck" mouse that is finally dying. I love it and want to find a replacement. Any suggestions?

A: State agencies use a service called Surplus With A Purpose (SWAP) where they can send unwanted or outdated equipment to be sold to other state agencies or members of the public (Friday mornings only). It is not unusual for older Mac equipment to appear at SWAP. You can check out the inventory at:
Try searching on eBay as well. Any USB mouse should work with the iMac that came with the "hockey puck".

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