ORB and Privacy: Part Two – making it secure.

Posted: January 17, 2010 in Mac OSX, software, Windows
Tags: , , ,

Never one to leave questions hanging out there, i decided i needed to know if the security issues that i had discovered in ORB on a windows PC were the same on a Mac. Short Answer: Yep.  Long answer… well, read on.  Let me walk you through the install and setup on a Mac (the windows setup is basically the same), and the potential security issue so you can decide for yourself whether the pluses outweigh the minuses.

Download and unzip the file, (download orb here) install and open the app.  First thing you will need to do is chose a username and password.  This is the username and password you and anyone you share your files with will be using to gain access and adjust settings so don’t use a standard password that you use for everything else, unless you like giving that kind of info away.


Once you have that decided, during setup you will be able to decide what you want to share, or let ORB find files for you.  I prefer to select certain folders and not entire libraries so as a test i selected a folder with a few movies in it.  When that is done and set up you will be greeted with a screen that is your home page for ORB.  Remember this is an online app that is basically allowing you to logon and adjust settings and shares, so when its running you need to be connected to the web.  The window looks something like this…

This is the default, you can add channels to it which are basically like other windows showing you more info, i changed the weather one to my actual location (as much as i would like to be in a warm San Fran climate, i’m not) and adding in a Recent Videos channel as shown below.

So far, so good, the set up is easy and for the most part the interface is easy to figure out and customize to your liking, i’ve left most of the settings as default and have filled in any of the personal information since i prefer my privacy and am not looking for another social media program which is apparently what ORB/ MyCast can be used for as well. Logging on with the ORBLive Free app for my iPhone allowed me to see my video folder and play a movie streaming from my MacBook over the internet.

As you can see the image is nice and clear on my iPhone and the picture quality and frame rate is acceptable for such a small screen – i wouldn’t want to mirror it onto a TV at this resolution, but if you are in a pinch and need to entertain yourself with a movie, say, sitting in an airport, doctors office, etc., then its perfectly fine.

The issue though was, and is, is it secure and is it sharing more info than you wanted.  As my previous post stated, the Windows version allowed me to see deep into files that were not shared simply because ORB/MyCast is set up for remote access.  When logged on using the ORB app, the files shown are limited to only the files you selected to be shared.  But, when logged on to mycast.orb.com you get to use the File Browser which has no limitations as to what it will allow you to browse to. I was able to drill down deep into my folders and see a thumbnail of a PDF that i had not shared.  Sure, i couldn’t open it, but the thumbnail was clear enough i could zoom in and read it (i’ve blurred it in the screen-capture) it also lets you see what files are on your Mac and get minimal info about them as seen below.

So it seems ORB running on a Mac has the same potential privacy issues as the windows version.  I can not see the user directories on the mac, but i can drill down right into the folders and see actual previews of the files which isn’t something i feel comfortable with.  Yes i realize i need a username and password to get into the ORB server but capturing that info or sometimes guessing that info is not all that difficult in a wireless network if its not secured properly.  This concerned me greatly as i mentioned so i poked around a bit further in the control panel and low and behold, there is a setting to turn off filebrowsing. Let me expand a bit.  There are two parts to the ORB install that you need to look at. One is the online part, and the other is the ORB program running on your Mac.  In the menu bar you will see the little green ORB symbol.  Click it and you can go to Control Panel or Go To Orb or Quit Orb.  Go into control panel and into the general preferences and you can disable File Browsing, as well as make all kinds of changes to the Orb setup.


Why this gets enabled in the defaults during install i’m not sure, but there it is, easy to turn off.  As you can see the header in the menu bar for File Browser is now gone.  Now i need to check the windows version and see if the same setting is buried in its control panel someplace too, i imagine it is and maybe its just not as easily found (gotta love mac apps for that).  Big sigh of relief since the application seems to offer some capabilities i haven’t found in any other free apps.  The streaming speed may be an issue depending upon what you are using ORB/MyCast for, but for access to your music and videos and selected files, its definitely a program to consider.  I’m going to keep ORB installed on my Mac and see how well it streams to the Wii if i can ever get the kids off it long enough to try it out that is.


UPDATE: I tried it on the Wii – works well enough you could watch a movie, its just a bit slow whenever action is on the screen, but at least the video and audio stay in sync.  Probably good enough the kids will use it, whereas i will still keep streaming to my xbox360 instead.



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