Adobe Reader X Quick Review

Background
Last week Adobe released a new version of Adobe Acrobat, version X.  This is a new version of the program that many of us use every day.  In the past people shied away from new versions of Acrobat reader because over the years the program had become bloated and slow.  However this new version offers important security benefits and speed improvements that make the upgrade worth it.

As many people know Adobe Reader has become one of the favorite attack vectors for hackers and malware over the past few years for a number of reasons including.

  1. The install base is huge! Most new PC’s come with it preinstalled, if not almost everyone needs a PDF viewer and Adobe’s is the most popular.
  2. Quarterly updates that Adobe releases are too slow and infrequent, Only if an exploit is really bad does Adobe decided to do an out of cycle update.  Even with these updates few people know that the program needs updated.  The automatic updates in version 9 have been better but still seem to fail most of the time.  Manual updating seems to be required.
  3. The ability to run things such as Javascript in a PDF exist and are on by default.  Just about everyone does not need this feature and it represents a large place to exploit.

The Good
Security
The biggest feature of version X is the introduction of a Sandbox.  A sandbox provides isolation  of the program from the operating system, to lessen the chance of security exploits.  Adobe does a great job in explaining all about the sandbox features in these two blog posts, Sandbox Post 1,  Sandbox Post 2, Sandbox Post 3, Sandbox Post 4.  This is such a big thing from a security angle that the SANS institute has recommended that everyone install Adobe Reader X to get this feature.  https://isc.sans.edu/diary.html?storyid=9976

Speed
Surprisingly this new version is faster than the old version 9.  It appears to be less bloated and quicker responding.

Other changes
I noticed the voice that will read text to you if you want seems to be more like a human.  The flow is greatly improved. The interface has been tweaked slightly to have more of a beveled edge, silver stainless steel look.  I like it.  Its nothing revolutionary but a nice, clean change.  The updater also now allows for you to set it to automatically download and install updates.  Hopefully this works well and allows the program to stay up to date without much user intervention.   I do hope Adobe changes their company policy and moves to a monthly update policy on the second Tuesday of the month, like Microsoft.  This will make the task of corporate administration much easier on the administrator.

The Bad
By default two security settings are on, when they should be disabled for increased security.  They pertain to features that a very, very small percentage of users actually use.  If for some reason you needed these someday you can easily turn them on, but for maximum security they should be off.  Adobe has even recommended doing this when the program has had problems in the past.  So to disable these settings go under EDIT—> Preferences —-> Then on the Left hand side choose JavaScript and then at the top of the page, uncheck the box that says “Enable Acrobat JavaScript”
The second option that needs changed is under this same menu.  Choose Trust Manager on the left hand side of the page, then at the top of the page uncheck the box that says “Allow Opening of non-PDF file attachments with external applications”

The other bad thing is that despite these new security features the very people you are trying to keep out are trying to take advantage of this new release to push their spamware most of it dubbed “Adobe Acrobat 2010” THIS IS FAKE and Malware, DO NOT INSTALL.  The SANS institute has a nice post about this as well, even with photos! https://isc.sans.edu/diary.html?storyid=9982

In conclusion when combined with the new security features and increased performance this seems like a great thing to have if you like the official client.  Here is a direct download for Windows ftp://ftp.adobe.com/pub/adobe/reader/win/10.x/10.0.0/en_US/AdbeRdr1000_en_US.exe

Hijinks Inc. Minecraft Alpha Multiplayer Server

As you might have heard, Minecraft has caught our collective eyes here at Hijinks Inc. so much so, that not only have myself, Fred and Jared bought the game, but we’ve also decided to launch a multiplayer server available to a select few.

Want in? Just send us an email aaron@hijinksinc.com

Like the software, our server is in alpha. Basically that means it’s an old MacBook sitting behind my TV in my living room, which also means it doesn’t have a static IP, we’re currently getting around that by using an easy to remember subdomain name, and if the IP address of the server changes we’ll just update where the domain is being pointed. In short, we don’t expect to have much downtime, but you’ve been warned.

Angry Birds for Android

Check it out, Android users… Angry Birds is in Beta for Android and a lite version is available for free!  In the 5 or 6 levels I’ve had time to play so far, I’ve been thoroughly impressed.  Unlike Doodle Jump, which doesn’t play nearly as smoothly on the Droid as it does on the iPod, this game feels like it’s supposed to.  In fact, it’s one of the few games for Android I’ve found so far that really feels like a game should… appealing graphics, great performance, and fun!  It’s as if I were playing it on an iPhone… which is saying a lot, as in my opinion, Apple still has the corner on the market with games.  However, I believe that will gradually change, and games like Angry Birds is on the right track to doing just that.  It all really boils down to weather or not developers will feel it’s worth their time porting to Android, but as more Android devices saturate the market, the more that won’t be an issue.

Grab a copy in the Market, and help the developers out by reporting any bugs you do find by using the ‘Bug’ button in the menu.