After Reinstall, Watching P2P Work in World of Warcraft

I like to reinstall my OS every few months to keep things tidy and fully functional on my MacBook 5,1. In a typical nuke-and-pave operation, I format my hard drive and then install the OS with most customizable options unchecked to save space. Then, I configure the firewall and other security features before installing all updates. Following that, I begin installing applications that I regularly use (iPhoto, Microsoft Office 2011, Seashore, VLC, and World of Warcraft). Next, I update any of those applications that have newer versions available (Service Pack 1 for Office 2011, and several GBs of new content for World of Warcraft–more on this later). I copy back my backed up files back to the MacBook’s internal hard drive, and point iTunes to my external media storage space (due to iPhone and iPad backups and my addiction to iTunes U, I cannot keep the iTunes media folder on my MacBook’s internal SSD, or solid state drive).

During the reinstallation process this time, I took a look at how World of Warcraft updates itself. I knew that it uses P2P (peer-to-peer) technology to distribute software updates from Blizzard to users and then between users themselves (see above). This method reduces Blizzard’s networking overhead and cost, because users can help one another update their software without any user intervention thanks to the updating mechanisms built into Blizzard’s video game. What I find particularly cool about Blizzard’s implementation of P2P, something already well established in the opensource software crowd, is that P2P is not something that is inherently bad. As some folks from the RIAA or MPAA might assert, P2P is solely a means of distributing illegally copied files between computer users. However, the technology of peer-to-peer file sharing and software distribution is not inherently meant to evade paying for software. Instead, it is a novel means of distributing files and networking resources (e.g., Tor) between P2P users. It turns the old networking, top-down model on its head. With P2P, the network spreads out rather than simply from a single point of distribution outward. For businesses like Blizzard, this helps reduce their costs for an otherwise large downstream of data to users like me who reinstall their programs regularly. For users, this allows for the easy updating of software that is more dependent upon their own Internet pipe and its size for the incoming stream of data from many users (see below).

I have intentionally blurred the IP addresses and Blizzard IDs of the users within the P2P network who were helping me update my software, but you can see that each line above represents another computer user who is streaming tiny bits of the rather large 3.85 GB of updates for World of Warcraft’s latest installment, Cataclysm. As these files are downloaded, the World of Warcraft updating software on my computer pieces everything back together and verifies with a hash tag that the downloaded software is legitimate (i.e., not compromised with bad data or a virus).

Time Warner’s Road Runner Internet service in Northeast Ohio, at least in Kent, is anything but road runner-fast. So, I did have to stop the transfer during the evening so that Y could use the Internet, too. I did not find a way to throttle the P2P updating feature from within the World of Warcraft software. When we went to bed last night, I started the updater again, and it was done when I woke up this morning.

P2P is not all bad, and there are certainly good uses for it. I think it was a wise decision on Blizzard’s part to incorporate it into World of Warcraft. Will other companies like Microsoft or Apple add this to their OS updates? It is hard to say, because I believe that security is the one concern about distributing software in this manner. When the software is released into the wild for P2P distribution, a vulnerability could be found and exploited.

Solution to 64bit Kernel on Late-2008 MacBooks

Jake pointed me to this excellent guide to permanently enabling 64bit kernel booting on the Late-2008 MacBooks and other officially unsupported Macs. If you scroll down to comment #21 on the guide, Jake offers a tip for other Late-2008 MacBook folks about how to get the fix to work after a reboot.

It goes without saying that if you follow the guide linked above, you do so at your own risk.

Apple Favors the MacBook Pro With 64bit Kernel

Screen shot 2009-09-07 at 1.18.14 AM

As you can see in the screenshot above of Markus Winter’s 32 or 64 bit Kernel Startup Mode Selector running on my aluminum unibody MacBook, Apple will not let me run the MacOS X 10.6 kernel in 64bit mode. My hardware, which is identical to the rebranded 13″ MacBook Pro, is locked out for the only reason that my laptop carries the “MacBook” instead of the “MacBook Pro” moniker. As you can read in my previous post on Snow Leopard, I thought that my MacBook would support the 64bit kernel since I have the right hardware to support it. Unfortunately, I was wrong as Mr. Winter explains in this post on his website. This makes me particularly mad, because I purchased Snow Leopard knowing that it had a 64bit kernel which would make use of the 4GB of RAM installed on my computer and allow for 64bit drivers. I realize that individual applications can run in 64bit despite the kernel running in 32bit mode, but I believe that Apple’s decision in this matter is intended to reward particular customers for purchasing higher end hardware. Except in this case, my hardware is no different than the rebranded 13″ MacBook Pro–the difference internally and externally is name alone!

Snow Leopard Still Running Strong

Screen shot 2009-08-29 at 9.35.32 PM

This is my second day with MacOS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, and all is running well! As you can see in the picture above, the DICOM viewer OsiriX is displaying my brain beautifully (how science fictional is that?!). My other apps including InDesign CS4 and NetNewsWire have been working perfectly as well. I did run into a problem launching NeoOffice 3.0, because I negligently forgot to update it to Patch 7, which opens without a hitch.

One of the features that I really dig in Snow Leopard is the ability to increase Finder previews up to 512×512 resolution, and as I’ve mentioned before, the previews are lightning fast on my SSD equipped unibody MacBook. I have been lusting for this seemingly simple feature since my first color Mac (a PowerMac 8500/120–my first Mac was a Powerbook 145B, which had a monochrome LCD display). Now that I have it, I have found some of the mundane locating a particular file version significantly faster, because I can quickly spy inside each file within a folder packed with an overabundance of files.

Regarding my post yesterday where I mentioned that the fans were revving. Luckily, that behavior has subsided. My guess is that the indexing service was reindexing my external hard drive, because the fans returned to normal after I ejected the drive and briefly returned when I reattached it today. However, the excessive fan use has subsided and my Macbook is as quiet as ever.

There is one thing that bothers me about the 64bit kernel of Snow Leopard. As I mentioned previously, I had to manually enable the 64bit kernel on my MacBook (13-inch, Aluminum, Late 2008). After Yufang installed her copy of Snow Leopard on her MacBook (Early 2008), she too had the 32bit kernel running by default. However, the 64bit enabler application reports that the 64bit kernel is unsupported on her MacBook. This seems odd, because the Intel Core 2 Duo is a 64bit CPU which leads me to believe that it can run the 64bit kernel of MacOS X 10.6. I wonder if this has something to do with the memory controller (her MacBook uses DDR2 memory and mine uses DDR3). I’m not sure, but I will do more research on this topic and report back.