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Home » Products » Reviews » The Very Ugly

Super Get Info 1.2.2

Bare Bones Software
Rating: (four burnt toasts)

Rich Siegel
PO Box 1048
Bedford MA 01730
US


Collateral damage:
$20 pizza money
Trivial functionality
Megabloat download
Externally induced cluelessness

Does the controversial Rich Siegel know anything about Unix? It's highly debatable, especially after taking a look at Super Get Info, a staggering 1.1 MB [sic] download which only gets at Unix inode and HFS CNID data Finder does anyway and many other applications do better.

The first thing that causes a body to look twice at this incidental application is the price: only this and it costs $20? On the other hand it's difficult to market a product online for less, as distribution commissions - especially from Digital River who take a walloping 30% and a fee - are prohibitive.

Then too, Rich Siegel is known for hyping dusty software with high prices - and then boasting 'it doesn't suck'.

Whatever: there should be other ways to get the product out - such as bundling with another (hopefully good) product. [Maybe that's the difficulty. Ed.]

Reviews of Super Get Info point to its ability to open multiple windows as one of its greatest features, leading one to seriously wonder how much Unix these reviewers know. Opening a single info window for multiple items lets the user set the permissions or what-not all at once. This should be regarded as a boon, not a shortcoming - although some basic knowledge of Unix might be necessary as pointed out, and assuming the reviewers have this is really stretching it.

Super Get Info offers what seems to be a tab interface built (whoa) with Interface Builder and run from (double whoa) a Cocoa Mach-O executable. Its size might seem extraordinary given the trivial nature of the application, but the third tab ('Preview') undoubtedly contains some goodies which are not that lean in implementation.

The three Super Get Info tabs are 'Info', 'Permissions', and 'Preview'. Contrary to the opinions of most astute reviewers, it is actually the third tab which is most remarkable. More on that later.

Info

The first 'Info' tab of Super Get Info is strikingly similar to the Finder tab. We see fields for 'Kind', 'Data (Fork)', 'Resource (Fork)', 'Version', 'Created', 'Modified', 'Stationery Pad', 'Locked', 'Invisible', 'Type', and 'Creator'.

A few immediate observations.


SGI is available only as a download. The box's a fake. And what's the stopwatch for anyway?
  • The 'Kind' field is an internal 'pretty name' designation for the file type.

  • In both 'Data' and 'Resource' Siegel shows his penchant for hype and hyperbole: the fields point out that the forks are 'on disk'. Where else would they be?

  • Unix - the flavour used on OS X - does not have a field for 'Created', but it does have a field for 'Accessed', an important field from a security standpoint which Super Get Info does not offer. The OS X 'Created' field is actually the time when the item's inode was last changed - it is not identical with the time the item was actually created: that information is found nowhere.

  • Stationery Pad, Locked, and Invisible are obsolete 'Finder flags' found in CNIDs but found nowhere in Unix, but what's worse, there are far more such flags if one has an inclination to show any of them at all. [See FileInfo for a look at what else is there. Ed.]

  • 'Type' and 'Creator' are likewise obsolete (but can still be annoying). As with FileInfo, it is possible to alter these fields. Super Get Info can also work from a dictionary of known types and codes. The dictionary that ships with Super Get Info unfortunately has only four - and they're all for Siegel products. [If anything these fields should be cleared anyway. Ed.]

The above is all very basic information - it's a 'first peek' at what's going on with a file system item, so it doesn't have to be complete. The next tab however should be.

Is it?

Permissions

Again a tab that's strikingly similar to a default Finder tab - so much so a first time user might be trying to remember why it seemed so cool to shell out 20 bucks.

You have the owner and the group - not in editable fields but in popup buttons - and then the 'permissions' of the item divided into owner, group, and 'world'. Also present is a 'revert' button.

  • It's probably not a good idea to let everyone know all the user and group identities on the system. If a user doesn't know an identity, it's probably because the user isn't to muck with it - besides, only root can change the ownership of a file anyway. Letting Super Get Info assume root privileges on a user's behalf is probably not at all that comforting for more aware users.

  • The 'rwx' system is good to have but it's not the end of the story - not by a long shot. If all you know about Unix - and your own file system - is what is on Rich Siegel's Super Get Info 'Permissions' tab, you might be stuck all the time with unsolvable mysteries on your own hard drive - a victim of externally induced cluelessness. And you might even be toast.

'rwx' represents only three of the four possible octal digits that can be edited for an item. They represent as given above the read, write, and execute permissions for the item's owner, the item's group, and everyone else.

But there's a fourth bit, and it's a doozie - and it's nowhere to be found in Super Get Info.

The fourth bit holds one or more of three values: a 'sticky bit', a 'set GID' bit, and a 'set UID' bit. All three are extremely important from a security standpoint. Not having access to this information - and not being able to change it - is a very serious drawback for Super Get Info.

But it gets worse, for there exists, in addition to the 'permissions', another field which can have far-reaching repercussions - a field sometimes referred to as the 'user defined flags'.

00010000  system archived
00020000  system immutable
00040000  system append
 00000001  user no dump
00000002  user immutable
00000004  user append
00000008  user opaque

The 'user immutable' flag can be useful: it prevents the item from being accidentally overwritten, deleted, moved, or renamed - regardless of the permissions. [And note how this works on directories: you can't add, remove, or rename files in it, no matter what the permissions say. Ed.]

User flags may be set by the item's owner or the superuser; system flags may only be set by the superuser. [So root may have marked your files and you'd never know it with Super Get Info. Ed.]

The system flags 'immutable' and 'append' normally require single user mode to be reset. [<-- Read that again. Do you know how to boot into single user mode? Do you know your way around in single user mode? Ed.]

Another salient point is that file info never tells the whole story anyway: what's a user to do if the permissions point to being able to do anything with a file but none of it is possible? In Unix it's the parent directory's permissions that are vital here (which is why TMI was created). If a directory does not allow editing, there is no way a user will be able to put new files in it, remove files from it, or change the name of any file.

The simplistic 'rwx' permissions shown in Super Get Info's second tab don't tell anything close to the whole story.

Preview

This is the best tab. There are quite a few hoops to jump through to make it work. It's perhaps not something everyone wants, but Bill Gates thinks it's cool (evidently Steve Jobs does not). If you really needed this feature, then the $20 you spend on this masterpiece might be worth it.

In all other cases the application is insignificantly different from what you already have in Finder - and as such is to an equal extent sorely lacking. Super Get Info is not 'super' at all. It previews all sorts of files but at the end of the day doesn't give you half of what it should and gets a few of the other details wrong.

But if you are really impressed with the program's ability to open multiple info windows all at once, then you should buy Super Get Info: you deserve no better.

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