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Macintosh Metadata Mania

It has to stop.


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ORANGE WALK TOWN (Rixstep) — Metadata can be a good thing. At least in moderation. But Apple's forlorn engineers really lost the plot of late. The one thing you haven't really seen yet is metadata on top of metadata, but that's coming soon enough, don't you worry. They already put it on .DS_Store.

And back in the day, an Apple software evangelist (!) protested about the protests about the lovely critter .DS_Store. No one could see them, he protested. Funny that: Twitter's got a dedicated bot that retweets anything with the name in it. So evidently they can be seen after all. By many.

And Xcode puts metadata on directories. FFS. And so forth. Things are out of control. Badly.

Your Typical Macintosh Download

Following is a screenshot of your typical Macintosh download of today, a file renamed 'Macintosh Metadata Mania'. The file was not tampered with - it was just downloaded, and then inspected, using the ACP's Xattr.

Here it is. The left pane shows all the gunk plastered on by Apple on the download.

That's six pieces of junk. Just because a file was downloaded. Onto a Macintosh.

Here's more info on a few of them.

1: com.apple.lastuseddate#PS

Annoying as it's obsequious: this is put on every file you touch. You don't have to modify - just accessing a file gives you this. And not just on downloads either - this goes on everything.

The 'last used date' - which is the same thing as the 'atime' already resident in the filesystem? Have any of those wizards ever done Unix 101 at undergrad level?

2: com.apple.metadata:_kMDItemUserTags

This critter, as two others, is in the form of a property list. And it can be extracted by Xattr. Here it is.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">
<array/>
</plist>

So it's an empty array. Apple needed to plaster your download with an extended attribute tag that does nothing.

3: com.apple.metadata:kMDItemDownloadedDate

And yet another. You really needed to know this. The timestamp for the download. That's already found in the timestamp of the file itself. Thanks, Apple.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<!DOCTYPE plist PUBLIC "-//Apple//DTD PLIST 1.0//EN" "http://www.apple.com/DTDs/PropertyList-1.0.dtd">
<plist version="1.0">
<array>
    <date>2018-07-27T20:41:08Z</date>
</array>
</plist>

Note as well that the date is stored in an array. For some undisclosed reason.

And so forth and so on. Note that these pieces of gunk don't come from the same source either: oh no, they come from Safari, from the Launch Services, and from who knows where else. It's almost as if one can soon start to believe that those code-owners don't generally have much of a clue what the other guy's doing. Which of course is just preposterous, as Apple keep a dedicated team working on 'macOS'. Oh wait...

Clean and Seal

So there's a new emergency utility for the ACP. From the product page:

CandS ('Clean and Seal') is an ACP contingency utility for Apple's shining 'macOS': it removes Apple's array of metadata extended attributes (XAs) that cling to everything you download (or otherwise come into contact with - today it's enough to merely open a file).

You can either drop files on its window or drop a hive root directory and click 'Recurse' and then click 'Clean and Seal'.

When dropping a single file, you have to explicitly click 'Clean and Seal'.

CandS displays the files/XAs removed. The readout can be fast.

After cleaning away the XAs, CandS seals each file by masking permissions to remove write bits. This still works, as Apple will still let you modify files by (ahem) 'unlocking' them.

That's it.

That's a very simple utility. It took a week to perfect, but it's still simple. So anyone can do it.

The question is: will they bother? Or will they just accumulate more and more junk? Because (ahem) it can't be seen?

A few ports are gone. So's the MagSafe Adapter. And the old logo. But we still got the Touch Bar!
 - Jive
Keep your fingers off the screen. Get iPhone. What's a computer?
 - T Cook
Metadata sucks balls.
 - S Gehrman
This is shit.
 - SP Jobs

See Also
CandS: Clean and Seal

About Rixstep

Stockholm/London-based Rixstep are a constellation of programmers and support staff from Radsoft Laboratories who tired of Windows vulnerabilities, Linux driver issues, and cursing x86 hardware all day long. Rixstep have many years of experience behind their efforts, with teaching and consulting credentials from the likes of British Aerospace, General Electric, Lockheed Martin, Lloyds TSB, SAAB Defence Systems, British Broadcasting Corporation, Barclays Bank, IBM, Microsoft, and Sony/Ericsson.

Rixstep and Radsoft products are or have been in use by Sweden's Royal Mail, Sony/Ericsson, the US Department of Defense, the offices of the US Supreme Court, the Government of Western Australia, the German Federal Police, Verizon Wireless, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Microsoft Corporation, the New York Times, Apple Inc, Oxford University, and hundreds of research institutes around the globe. See here.

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