Debated Explained

Reader Mail: Apple Phones One In?

Occasionally, comments require a full post responce; [today, Cyd wrote](

> Hi Dan,
> You’re my source for all that’s important techno-wise – congrats on the promotion!! But, I stumbled across [this]( & need guidance – I feel betrayed – could you advise – is it time to worry about how Apple seems to be morphing over to the MS darkside? Thanks!

For those of you too busy to read about Yet Another Apple Outcry&tradem;, here’s the summary: version 10.4.7 of OS X was recently released. Amongst the fixes and new features, there was a new behavior that some people were upset about: a process called dashboardadvisoryd was “phoning home” to one of Apple’s servers multiple times a day.

Quickly, everyone, flip out! AIYEEEEEE!

Now that that’s out of our system: this is not worth ruining your undergarments over. The derived purpose of dashboardadvisoryd is to check to see if your widgets are up to date.

As you can read in the comments across the multiple blog posts that have been spawned about this ([Red Sweater Blog]( being a fairly reasonable one), the derived purpose of this is to cross-check version numbers of your widgets against Apple’s internal database. Presumably, this is done to *harden* the system, not act as Big Brother. But given the [recent fireworks]( about Window’s WGA, it’s not surprising that anyone treats the slightest notion of phoning home as a violation of international law.

Phoning home can be a positive thing. Being able to email crash reports immediately to the developers is a boon for bug fixing. Phoning home is, in my experience, the most effective block against casual piracy, and as much as some may disagree, software developers need to eat. And being able to get update notifications – or in some cases, apply updates without even prompting the user – is win-win for end users (more stable software) as well as developers (less versions to provide support to). If it weren’t for automatic application of updates, I’d be spending more time updating Quicksilver than actually using it.

Speaking of automatic updates: having just received an absurd number of new Macs at work, I’d like to remind everyone that Software Update defaults to **on**. It checks once a week, and that has to transmit information about *every application you have installed*. Again: [dashboardadvisoryd transmits *nothing*]( identifying what’s on your machine during the routine checks. And Apple doesn’t ask you if you want to turn that on during setup.
Don’t get me wrong: I am not a fan of identifying information about my machine flying across the Internet to some corporation without my consent. Apple should notify users and give an easy option to turn it off, just like they did in the aftermath of the iTunes Ministore outcry.

But failing that for the time being, The Cult Of Mac Blog [has an easy remedy]( From Terminal, punch this in:

sudo mv /etc/mach_init.d/dashboardadvisoryd.plist /etc/mach_init.d/dashboardadvisoryd.plist.disabled

Then, reboot. “Problem” solved.

Finally, if you’re worried about phoning home from all of your apps – and a little security paranoia isn’t a bad thing – [Little Snitch]( is indispensable for your Mac.