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Homeland Alert 3.6

ExitToShell()
Rating: (four burnt toasts)

Homeland Alert displays in the menu bar the current Homeland Security Advisory status level/color for the entire country. This software is not intended as a joke or gag or political commentary as some others have done. For adults only.

Download: 439,096 bytes
Executable: 73,952 bytes (debug image)
Frameworks: 528,360 bytes (Karelia public domain)
Total install bloat: 893,791 bytes
Collateral Damage: your sanity
Development: Carbon/Cocoa

ShareWare
[$5] Single User

Registrant:
Tim Mityok
  PO Box 2235
  Smyrna, TN 37167
  US


Kudos for starters on the original and artistic icon. And, as the benign benefactors of ExitToShell() point out, this program is not a joke - and neither is its price - although you'd have a hard time convincing the visitors to MacUpdate.

http://macupdate.com/info.php/id/9179

Amongst the more memorable of the over seventy comments found at that URL are the suggestion to supply duct tape, to also monitor the spread of Mad Cow Disease, and recurring 'thank you's from others who've not had such a good time laughing at something so ridiculous in ages.

Other comments are less facetious, and a common sentiment is not only is this application ridiculous, it's also grossly exploitative. Some cynics have suggested the app does not even maintain contact with the terrorist alert centres but sends out updates with new colours if the alert level ever changes.

Whatever: Homeland Alert 3.6 is a classic to beat all classics.

It comes with the CURLHandle framework written by Dan Wood of Karelia Software and released into the public domain; the wonder of it is these geniuses - who purport to want to teach programming to others - have included Dan's framework module in triplicate for no good reason. Add another half megabloat to the disk footprint just because someone was terminally clueless at ExitToShell().

The menu NIB seems to be 'borrowed' from Apple's Sherlock application; it should be never used anyway and it certainly isn't finished, displaying 'NewApplication' all over the place (just leave it in, what the heck).

There is a window (for what good remains a mystery) with a custom view called aptly 'CustomView' (creative licence at work).

And there is an instantiated class called 'Controller' with a single outlet called ingeniously 'MyOutlet' (it's most likely never used either - what the heck).

The program teams up with a number of high-security URLs in its zeal to keep you protected, most notably a URL back to the ExitToShell() website, a URL which doesn't exist (at least not at time of writing).

http://www.exittoshell.com/HomelandAlertUpdate.plist

The other two URLs are the following.

http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic
http://www.dhs.gov/dhspublic/getAdvisoryCondition

A visit to the latter of these two will return something looking like the following.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<THREAT_ADVISORY CONDITION="ELEVATED" />

Which is regarded as a 'medium' alert as the five possible categories are called 'Low', 'Guarded', 'Elevated', 'Severe', and 'High'. 'Elevated' corresponds to the colour yellow, which is the colour most people are wont to see if they ever bother to look.

Homeland Alert 3.6 parses these two complex lines of XML and sends its request for them using what it calls a 'user agent spoof'.

Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/85.7 (KHTML, like Gecko) Safari/85.6

And that's about it. Homeland Alert 3.6 can also read out the terrorist threat level for you using the voice capabilities built into OS X.

'The homeland alert level is now %d.'

(The alert cynic will note the above allows for a negative integer, even though the only possible allowed values are 1 - 5.)

But now to the best part: what does this sparkling program look like when activated? Fortunately the wizards of ExitToShell() have provided a screenshot so no one has to risk ruining their computer on a trial run.

And you can see Homeland Alert 3.6 in action on the right.

'Never Forget Sept. 11, 2001', says the caption above the picture of the WTC in flames at the ExitToShell() website. And most likely no one ever will.

Nor will they ever forget what very likely will go down in computer science history as the worst designed, worst implemented, and most tasteless computer program ever.

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