How to show hidden files on OS X Mavericks 10.9

OS X Disk RootIn my opinion, the Mac OS is astonishingly simple and easy to use and for most people the default file system setting is just fine, however there are files and folders that are hidden from view – and just as well for some users!

Personally, I like to see all the files and folders, including the hidden ones.  There are tools and apps that do this, but by far the simplest way is by typing in a command.

Here are the steps:

  1. Go to the ‘Terminal’ app. The quickest way is to click on the spotlight magnifying glass in the top right of the menu bar and type Terminal and then hit return/enter. Double click on the icon to open.
  2. Copy and past the following command as all one line:
    defaults write AppleShowAllFiles 1 && killall Finder

    and hit return.

The Finder will restart immediately, and all the hidden files and folders will be visible.

To turn off hidden files, the command replaces 1 with 0:

defaults write AppleShowAllFiles 0 && killall Finder

WARNING! Be careful, and don’t delete or alter anything that you don’t fully understand as you may cause issues with the way the operating system works. However, delving in, looking around, and so on will help you find out how the Mac OS works. If you are used to any flavour of Linux or Unix, you will immediately recognise the way the file system is laid out.

In memory of the humble audio cassette tape

TDK MA-X / Type IV / Metal audio cassette

Saturday 7th September was the first International Cassette Store Day. Its organisers described it as “a celebration of a physical product that is accessible, fun, cheap and still going strong in the turbulent current musical climate.” The day saw  a number of limited edition albums released on cassette, and modern classic albums re-released too.

My Tapes

I adored the TDK MA cassette tapes (pictured). I had  a fantastic SONY three head recorder with bias adjustment helper and Dolby-S bought circa 1994. (I still have it actually and it’s as good as new!)

With a fresh metal tape, bias adjusted, dolby S on and using the third head monitoring, you could push the signal really high achieving a wonderful audio signal saturation level that is hard to beat. They just played back with such life on any type of cassette player too, including car radio cassette players!

I used to record a lot of mates’ CDs on to tape for them because they loved the sound quality I could achieve. The tape saturation  brought a life and clarity to music that seems to be missing from a lot of digital music, and even pre-recorded analogue music as well.

Before the ease of hard-disk and digital recording, most of my compositions, MIDI sequences and keyboard improvisation moments were all recorded to the TDK type IV metal cassettes too. I’m slowly revisiting all these and archiving them digitally to share online (see the list under Music).

Sony three head cassette deck with Dobly S.

Tape Saturation in a Digital Age

Those familiar with digital recording of any kind will recognise the life-ending sound that is almost worse than fingers down a black-board: digital clipping. Once a digital signal has clipped, there is rarely anything known to man or gods that can be done to rectify that audio recording.

The analogue audio concept is based on physical electrical voltage current alternations which convey an electrical wave form analogous to the sound pressure wave form, hence being called analogue. In this domain, clipping becomes an electrically relative term that depends on the input and output capabilities of the components of the ‘chain’ or system. There comes a point of overloading, where the power of the electrical signal is too much to handle and the signal, and thus the quality of the audio it is analogous to alters.

The distortion associated with clipping is often unwanted, and is visible on an oscilloscope even if it is inaudible. However there are times when it is wanted for creative reasons, such as with the electric guitar or the distorted vocal effect etc. But there is also another reason, which I mentioned  earlier when talking about recording CDs to tapes.

As the signal level increases, tape approaches a saturation point where no further signal variations can be recorded. This is signal saturation, an inherent flaw in the accuracy of magnetic tape as a recording medium. However, unlike digital recording techniques, where analogue to digital converters in audio interfaces suddenly and aggressively ‘clip’ as the signal exceeds its maximum level, analogue tape breaks down in a less predictable manner. The result is distortion and compression which behaves in a unevenly with regard to signal level, frequency and dynamic range. (Or, in a non-linear way for the techno-bables.)

Ironically, the ‘break down’ and soft-clipping of tape saturation sounds pretty appealing to most people, and recording engineers realised that the pleasant distortion and compression characteristics of saturation could be used as a mix tool, making individual tracks sound more punchy, helping to ‘glue’ elements together and even making entire mixes sound bigger and richer.

Recreating the Warmth of Tape

Most people use Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software these days, such as Logic and Pro Tools. Many studios, and live engineers, are recording and mixing with digital audio consoles (a few studios have kept the analogue desks of old, but they generally are massive beasts and prone to breaking down with heavy usage.) Introducing”analogue warmth” to your digital sounding mix is the subject of hundreds of articles all over the net, but there are three basic solutions.

  1. Use a DAW plug-in. They range widely in price and quality. Essentially, digital algorithms try to model the effect of signal saturation.
  2. Use a three-head cassette recorder. Just chain an output bus to the input of the tape deck (like the SONY model I have) and route the ‘monitor’ output back in to your DAW. Use a fresh tape, fast forward to about 2 mins in, follow the bias adjust setup, then record your mix via the tape (recording, set to monitor, and volume adjusted as high as sounds pleasing – you may have to manually adjust too) and record the result either live back in to DAW or replay the tape.
  3. Use a Gyraf Audio Gyratec Infundibululm. It will only set you back £3360 and is tested and reviewed in this months Sound on Sound magazine. It is a completely mains-free passive device, so no electrical interference from mains, and is actually rather brilliant. Admittedly, it’s top level pro kit at that price, but there really is nothing like it out there.

What’s it sound like?

Sound on Sound have provided some audio examples of their test with the Gyraterwatsityfidliumthingy, on their website:

Criticism for ‘UK database’ plan

By Jane Wakefield 
Technology reporter, BBC News

Newspaper headline about data losses

The government has made headlines for data failures

Plans for a super-database containing the details of all phone calls and e-mails sent in the UK have been heavily criticised by experts.

The government is considering the changes as part of its ongoing fight against serious crime and terrorism.

Assistant Information Commissioner Jonathan Bamford has warned that the UK could be “sleepwalking into a surveillance society”.

Others have questioned how such a database could be made secure.

Public confidence

“While the public is “sleepwalking” into a surveillance society, the government seems to have its eyes wide open although, unfortunately, to everything except security,” said Jamie Cowper, data protection expert at data protection firm PGP Corporation.

“The bottom line is – information of this nature should only be held if – and only if – it can be demonstrated that an appropriate system of checks and balances is in place and the security of the information being stored is of paramount concern,” he added.

Public confidence in the governments’ ability to look after data has been dented in recent months with high profile failures, including the loss of a CD carrying all the personal details of every child benefit claimant.

The latest plans being mulled by the Home Office will form part of the proposed Communications Bill, which is due to be considered by MPs later this year.

It is, said a Home Office spokesman, crucial “to ensure that public authorities have access to communications data essential for counter-terrorism and investigation of crime purposes.”


 The more people who have access to it the more risks there would be 
Chris Mayers, Citrix Systems

It would extend the powers of RIPA (the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act) which currently allows hundreds of government agencies access to communications data.

Some believe such legislation, which requires government authorities to request information from communication providers, is more than adequate for law enforcement purposes.

“The fight against terrorism doesn’t require a centralised database,” said Chris Mayers, chief security architect at Citrix Systems, an applications delivery firm.

“Such a database would face threats from both outside and inside. The more people who have access to it the more risks there would be,” he said.

Big Brother

The Internet Service Providers’ Association said it was seeking more information about the proposals.

“In particular we want to know more about the Government’s intentions regarding “modifying the procedures for acquiring communications data,” said a spokesman.

In the run-up to RIPA being approved by parliament, human rights campaigner Privacy International argued that such an act would be a dangerous first step towards a “Big Brother” society.

According to Gus Hosein, a senior fellow at Privacy International, the latest proposals could be even more controversial.

“The idea that ISPs need to collect data and send it en masse to central government is, without doubt, illegal,” he said.

Phonecalls and texts to be logged by Government

Information about all landline and mobile phone calls made in the UK must be logged and stored for a year under new laws.Data about calls made and received will also be available to 652 public bodies, including the police and councils.

The Home Office said the content of calls and texts would not be read and insisted the move was vital to tackle serious crime and terrorism.

But critics said it was another example of Britain’s “surveillance society”.

The new law, under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, was signed off by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith in July.

It requires phone companies to log data on every call or text made to and from every phone in Britain.

‘Different uses’

Since 2004, companies have voluntarily provided data, where available, if it was requested, but now they will required by law to retain it for a year.

Minister for Security and Counter-terrorism Tony McNulty told BBC Radio 4 that the data could provide three levels of information, the simplest being about the phone’s owner.

“Say some old lady has got difficulties with someone who’s repaired the gas in her house and has a mobile phone for somebody who’s clearly dodgy,” Mr McNulty said.

“The local authorities can just get the subscriber information next to that number.

“The second level of data is not simply the subscriber, but also the calls made by that phone.

“And the third level which is purely for the security forces, police, etc, is not just the subscriber information and the calls made, but also the calls coming in and location data – where the calls are made from.”

Personal ‘profile’

A person’s location can be pinpointed to within a few feet by identifying the mobile phone mast used to transmit their call.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights group Liberty, said people were more concerned than ever about their personal privacy, especially how many bodies had access to their phone records.

“There are actually a very broad range of purposes for which this information about who we’ve been phoning and when can be revealed,” Ms Chakrabarti said.

“It includes, for example, the Gaming Board, the Food Standards Authority and every district and county council in the country.”

She said requests for information would not be limited to those concerning serious crime and national security.

“We’re talking about a profile that can be built of your personal relationships on the basis of who you’ve been speaking to and when.”

Public consulted

Mr McNulty said local councils would only have access to data on “a legitimate and proportional basis”.

“(To say) that all of a sudden anyone and everyone’s information is available, that all these authorities somehow have the right to go fishing and snooping, simply isn’t the case,” he added.

Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: “Once again this government has been caught red-handed creating new surveillance state powers with no meaningful public or parliamentary debate.

The Home Office said the plans had been through a public consultation and said a senior police officer would have to approve any request for phone data.

Councils would only be able to use the powers to “prevent and detect crime – not for the collection of taxes”, the spokesman added.

The new law brings Britain in line with an EU directive on the retention of phone data.

Who’s watching the watchers?

Not even MPs are exempt from the surveillance state they have created, notes regular columnist Bill Thompson. 

CCTV camera near Houses of Parliament, AP

MP’s are worried about coming under the same scrutiny as most citizens

Members of the British Parliament have been shocked to discover that one of their number was bugged by the secret service, violating the forty-year old “Wilson doctrine” that offers MPs immunity from the sort of snooping they are happy for the rest of us to be subject to.Two conversations between Tooting MP Sadiq Khan and his constituent and childhood friend Babar Ahmad were apparently recorded in the prison where Mr Ahmad is being held.

He is on remand while awaiting deportation to the United States on charges relating to his support for terrorism. Mr Ahmad faces no charges in the UK.

The real problem for MPs, of course, is not that they will be specifically targetted for surveillance but that they will inevitably be caught up in operations against other people.

This doesn’t seem to be the case here, as special arrangements were made to seat the two men at a “talking table” in the prison visiting area, but many MPs must have found themselves chatting to someone who was being constantly watched.


Bill Thompson
 Perhaps it’s time to teach our elected representatives how to use the latest encryption and anonymising tools so that they can protect themselves from the surveillance state they have created? 
Bill Thompson

And while it might be nice to think that the people at the other end would think “hold on, that person is an elected Member of Parliament – turn off the recording”, it’s also rather unrealistic. 

Just as few of us believe that employers really do stop reading employee e-mails when they realise that they are personal, although that is what the law would require, it is hard to imagine that the secret service turn off their microphones when an MP enters the room.

The problem is not, however, restricted to specially installed listening devices, and MPs concerned about bugs might want to look again at the laws which control how online communications of all kinds are monitored, stored and analysed, since this affects them as much as it affects the rest of us.

Phone companies and internet service providers keep records of all text messages, phone calls, e-mails, IP addresses, websites visited, and times logged on to instant messaging services, collectively known as “traffic data”.

The content of e-mails and chats or details of web searches are not stored, so it takes a warrant to read someone’s e-mail, monitor their online chats or install bugging software on their laptop so you can listen in to their Skype conversations.

But the information that is retained is enough to know who you are calling or e-mailing, when you’re chatting and which websites you are visiting, the sort of thing that most of us would consider private and expect to be kept confidential.


Harold Wilson, Getty

The immunity for MPs dates from the days of Labour PM Harold Wilson

Apart from website information, which the UK only asks net providers to keep for four days, most of this data is routinely retained for six months. Once the European Directive on Data Retention is fully written into national laws it could be kept for two years. 

According to the Interception of Communications Commissioner, Sir Paul Kennedy, over 250,000 requests for access to this data were made in the first nine months of 2007, an appalling extension of the state’s powers of surveillance, and one that few of us are aware of.

And nearly 800 separate bodies can ask to see some or all of it.

Apart from the police and secret services the Food Standards Agency, health service trusts and even the Post Office can ask to see who you’ve been exchanging e-mails with.

The information gathered will inevitably include details of correspondence between MPs and their constituents, lists of websites visited from MPs offices and home computers and details of which instant messaging services they have been accessing.


Hard drive, Eyewire

Currently net service firms retain data for about six months

And I doubt that there is a filter for “” in the analysis tools so that none of this data is ever passed to the secret services, the police or any of the other government agencies allowed to ask for it, so MPs are probably under routine surveillance whether they like it or not. 

At least it puts them in the same bag as the rest of us. Journalists don’t even have the fig-leaf of protection against being watched that MPs have claimed for themselves, and I tell every one of my students at City University to assume that all of their e-mails, phone calls and online chats could be read by the authorities.

Most of the time, of course, what we’re doing is not of sufficient interest to justify the effort of monitoring a journalist – or even an MP – but being aware of the possibility is vitally important in case a story suddenly becomes high-profile. The same would apply if a constituent becomes “of interest” to the authorities.

MPs might be unhappy to find out that their supposedly confidential chats to constituents are being listened in to by MI5, but surely they should be just as worried that the Food Standards Agency can find out that the owner of the dodgy takeaway in the local high street has been sending them e-mails?

Perhaps it’s time to teach our elected representatives how to use the latest encryption and anonymising tools so that they can protect themselves from the surveillance state they have created?

Or perhaps they would like to do us all a service and dismantle it. 


Bill Thompson is an independent journalist and regular commentator on the BBC World Service programme Digital Planet.

Virgin territory for ISPs


BitTorrent is used by many to download missed TV shows

Bill Thompson believes Virgin Media has decided it likes record companies more than its customers. 

The chances are that I’ll be getting a letter from my internet service provider (ISP) in the next few weeks telling me that they’ve been watching my network activity closely and think I’ve been breaking the law.

Virgin Media, who used to be called NTL before they acquired Virgin Mobile and turned themselves into a “four-play” media company, has announced that it is working with record industry lobby group, the British Phonographic Industry, to write to customers whose network connection seems to have been used to download unlicensed content.

Like almost every technically-competent internet user of my acquaintance I’ve used BitTorrent to get my hands on a copy of a TV show that I missed, taking advantage of the kindness of strangers who bothered to record and upload the shows for fans because the companies that make and broadcast them choose not to.

However I also go out and buy the DVD box sets as soon as I can.

And I don’t feel like a criminal, because I don’t see why downloading a copy of a show that someone else has recorded should be seen as a breach of copyright while recording it myself onto a DVD is not.

According to the BPI’s press release the letters are part of a “new education campaign to help Virgin Media’s broadband customers safely download music from the internet and avoid the risk of legal action”.


Bill Thompson
 At the moment it’s hard to use BitTorrent anonymously, although since the service itself is entirely legal and legitimate there should be no need to do so 
Bill Thompson


But from the outside it seems more like a softening up move to get Virgin customers used to the fact that they are being observed by their ISP. And I predict Virgin will be happy to help the BPI identify individual account holders so that they can be threatened with prosecution over their downloading activities later on.

The move follows a campaign by the BPI to persuade UK ISPs to adopt a “three strikes and you’re out” approach to downloaders, where they would have their network connection terminated if they were found to be downloading unlicensed material after two warnings.

This hasn’t happened, not least because the two sides can’t agree who would pay the costs of monitoring or sending letters, or who would be liable for the inevitable lawsuits when innocent users decided that arbitrary disconnection without due process was likely to prove unpopular in the courts.

They should be careful who they sue. Researchers at the University of Washington recently announced that they had managed to fool US film industry body the MPAA into sending formal legal notices to three laser printers, claiming that they had been downloading copies of Iron Man and Indiana Jones.

Fake IP addresses

They had set up their network to fake the relevant internet addresses and the software used by the MPAA was unable to spot this.

Virgin will be on slightly firmer ground because it’s their network, and although some users may claim that they have open wireless networks that could have been used by anyone the buck will stop with the account holder.

There continues to be concerted pressure from established content providers in film, television and music, hoping that aggressive enforcement of copyright law will ensure that their 20th Century business models survive against the onslaught of the network society.

I believe it’s a doomed enterprise, as the growth of a fast internet coupled with the ability to make perfect copies of digital content means that all of the assumptions that underpin film studios, TV broadcasters and record companies have been stripped away, leaving them flailing around, threatening and suing the people who should be their best customers and hoping to persuade politicians to pass new laws to give them special privileges online.

As more licensed download services become available, many offering songs without usage restrictions enforced by digital rights management technologies, the wholesale copying of unlicensed copies becomes a lot less defensible.

But the habits that grew up when the music industry was simply unwilling to accept that downloading was the way forward – and the technologies that support those habits – will be hard to break.

Heavy downloaders

Evidence that heavy downloaders are also heavy music purchasers doesn’t seem to have made any difference to the BPI’s approach either, and instead of finding new business models they hold on to the old ways of working.

It gets more complicated because the larger ISPs in the UK, Virgin, Sky and BT, are also content providers with their own interests in shoring up the current copyright regime.

Virgin don’t want programmes they have paid to distribute ending up on the internet for people like me to download, but by acting in concert with trade bodies they can appear socially responsible rather than simply serving their own broader interests.

The spaces within which we can live unobserved are constantly diminishing, as both public and private sector agencies link their databases together or co-operate to ensure that nothing we do goes unremarked.

We need a space for experimentation, where we can test the limits of old laws and explore how they might be altered in future, but once ISPs decide that they are no longer neutral carriers of bits and choose to ally themselves with the content industry then we lose another sliver of freedom.

At the moment it’s hard to use BitTorrent anonymously, although since the service itself is entirely legal and legitimate there should be no need to do so.

The moves by Virgin and other ISPs will simply spur the development of new ways of sharing files, just as the clampdown on Napster lead directly to the development of the current generation of peer to peer networks.

Virgin has just given its thousands of users an incentive to explore these new tools in order to confuse their administrators. After all, we pay them to move my bits around, not to go running to the record company if they suspect us of downloading unlicensed music.

Bill Thompson is an independent journalist and regular commentator on the BBC World Service programme Digital Planet.

Making bad law from good intentions?

Hard cases make bad law, especially online, argues Bill Thompson

It has always been difficult to stay completely on the right side of the law, however law-abiding one tries to be.

I try to check the copyright status of every picture I use in my presentations, but may sometimes slip up.

Copying CDs I own to my iPod may – or may not be – illegal, and copying DVDs I own certainly is.

And like all drivers I sometimes see the speedometer creep up above the speed limit when I’m not paying attention to it on a quiet motorway.

But now it seems I could face prosecution for the wide range of user accounts I’ve created on MySpace, Facebook, Googlemail, Flickr and Bebo to support the various projects I’m involved with.

The Norfolk and Norwich Festival, Tyneside 100 and Wysing Arts Centre identities I have lovingly crafted may well fall foul of a US decision that breaking the terms and conditions of a social network site can count as unauthorised access, turning what would seem to be at most a civil offence into a criminal act under computer misuse laws.

The concern arises because prosecutors in California have just charged 47-year-old Lori Drew under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for creating a fictitious MySpace account, something which many of us have done in the past and which I do all the time when projects I’m working on require a MySpace profile.


Bill Thompson
 The prosecution raises wider issues that should concern any computer user 
Bill Thompson

Drew allegedly used the account to pretend to be a 16-year-old boy, befriending and then rejecting 13- year-old Megan Meier, a friend of her daughter’s, and – it is claimed – provoking Meier to commit suicide.

However state officials could find no basis on which to prosecute her in the 18 months since Meier’s death, until the imaginative use of the computer crime law lead to charges last week.

Now she has been charged with “accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress”, because she broke MySpace’s terms of use, which forbid “impersonating or attempting to impersonate another Member, person or entity” and “using any information obtained from the MySpace Services in order to harass, abuse, or harm another person or entity, or attempting to do the same”.

If the case against Drew is proved then she deserves our complete condemnation for bullying a young and vulnerable girl, and I can’t imagine anyone would defend this behaviour or argue that a right to anonymity or pseudonymity extends to adults who abuse young people in this way.

Wider issues

But the prosecution raises wider issues that should concern any computer user, especially those who neither read nor take much notice of the terms and conditions of the sites and services they visit, since it opens up the possibility that acts which we thought were insignificant could be used against us in unexpected ways.

As always, we need to be careful about jumping to the conclusion that this is the death of the web as we know it, that every social network site will start prosecuting its users or that we are all under risk of investigation.

All we have is an indictment, which may be thrown out by the court, claiming that an offence has been committed.

The Computer Fraud and Misuse Act is being used because the false identity was used to do something much more serious, and the legal argument is that it can form the basis of a prosecution because it constitutes a “tortious act”, but this has yet to be accepted by a judge.

Even if it went all the way through to successful prosecution it doesn’t mean that MySpace could throw recalcitrant users in gaol for signing up with false names. And in most cases, like that of Lori Drew, there would be another law under which to prosecute anyone who used their online identity for something dodgy.

And yet it is a worrying development, because it creates a degree of uncertainty and may, because of that, have a chilling effect on what we do online.

Wild abandon

I’ve created new profiles and identities with wild abandon, secure in the knowledge that if Facebook or Bebo or whoever didn’t like what I was doing the most they could do was close my account and perhaps try to stop me opening a new one.

But just as new laws on anti-social behaviour in the UK have created uncertainty about what is acceptable, with tales of people being fined for dropping two crisps that would be eaten by a bird within minutes promoting an atmosphere of careful restraint, any sense that online activity could get someone into serious trouble may limit playfulness and creativity.

In Nineteen Eighty-Four Winston Smith is afraid of the telescreen not because he is being watched constantly but because he might be being watched at any particular moment.

As a result he controls himself far more carefully than the Party could ever manage.

We need to be careful that the US legal system, desperate to prosecute someone over the tragic death of a young girl, does not end up establishing a precedent that leads us all to censor ourselves online, just in case. 

Bill Thompson is an independent journalist and regular commentator on the BBC World Service programme Digital Planet.