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Next Mac update blocks uncertified, non-App Store games by default
Next Mac update blocks uncertified, non-App Store games by default
February 16, 2012 | By Eric Caoili

Apple's next major operating system update for Macs will, by default, block users from running games and applications not downloaded from the Mac App Store or created by a developer registered with the company.

A new feature in the update called Gatekeeper automatically prevents users from running games that are from unregistered developers and that they've downloaded from the web -- similar to how iPhone or iPad owners can't install apps that don't originate from the App Store.

Users can choose to remove that restriction, increase security by allowing only Mac App Store programs to run, or load an app anyway by right-clicking on it and hitting open, but when they first install Mountain Lion, Gatekeeper will refuse uncertified, non-Mac App Store titles by default.

This feature is meant to increase security and combat malware from taking root on users' computers, as its reviewers inspect each Mac App Store submission before approving it for release, and the company can remove problem software from the shop.

Developers who don't want to register with Apple but still release apps and games through other channels, such as their own websites, might not appreciate this restriction and the slightly heightened barrier of entry it creates for users to install their titles.

If they want to avoid those issues, though, they will need to sign up for Apple's Developer ID program, which gives developers a unique ID for signing their apps. The ID is designed to verify whether their app is known malware or has been tampered with. If a developer is found to be distributing malware, Apple could revoke their certification and prevent users from loading any of that developer's apps.

The OS X Mountain Lion update is meant to further unify the offerings of Apple's iOS and PC operating systems, creating a consistent experience. Along with Gatekeeper and other new features, Apple will carry over its iOS social network Game Center to Macs. This move should greatly increase Game Center's audience, which already has over 100 registered million users across iPhones, iPod Touches, and iPads.

By bringing the mobile game social network to Macs, Apple will enable developers to release titles that support cross-platform multiplayer. Someone with a Mac copy of a game could play against another person with an iOS version of the title.

Game Center for Mac will also allow developers to tap into online and community features like leaderboards, achievements, friend requests, voice chat, and more. The network allows users to see what their friends are playing and discover new games, too.

Apple says more than 20,000 games on iOS's App Store use Game Center -- plenty of titles also use third-party social networks like Gee's OpenFeint and Gameloft Live, which support cross-platform play across iOS and Android devices but not Macs.

OS X Mountain Lion is expected to release this summer through the Mac App Store as a paid product, not a free system update.

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Lars Doucet
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Joseph Garrahan
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The worst part of the iOS is coming to desktops?

Christer Kaitila
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Walled gardens seem to be in vogue these days.

Matthew Wegner
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According to the Daring Fireball writeup, signing an App only requires the free developer account with no approval process on binaries themselves. This makes sense, because it's simply a way for Apple to get a kill switch against malware.

"My favorite Mountain Lion feature, though, is one that hardly even has a visible interface. Apple is calling it “Gatekeeper”. It’s a system whereby developers can sign up for free-of-charge Apple developer IDs which they can then use to cryptographically sign their applications. If an app is found to be malware, Apple can revoke that developer’s certificate, rendering the app (along with any others from the same developer) inert on any Mac where it’s been installed. In effect, it offers all the security benefits of the App Store, except for the process of approving apps by Apple. Users have three choices which type of apps can run on Mountain Lion:

- Only those from the App Store

- Only those from the App Store or which are signed by a developer ID

- Any app, whether signed or unsigned

The default for this setting is, I say, exactly right: the one in the middle, disallowing only unsigned apps. This default setting benefits users by increasing practical security, and also benefits developers, preserving the freedom to ship whatever software they want for the Mac, with no approval process."


E Zachary Knight
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That is the first I heard of the identified developer program being free. All other news sources i have read have it as $99 whether you use the app store or not.

Lars Doucet
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Even if it is free, I think it's a bad idea for Apple to decide what is and is not malware. Oh, we'll only use it for bad stuff, we swear! And is it free or not? Everything I've read says $99.

Matthew Wegner
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A "developer account" has always been free. $99 to submit to App Store, but that's a different thing:

Josh Larson
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Classic case of trading privacy and "freedom" for security.

This is a sad day.

Jeff Murray
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I don't know what we developers did, but Apple really do seem to hate us.

Stuart Carnie
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I don't see how this is an issue for us developers? There is no approval process, it's simply providing a signed build so that users can trust the application. I personally (as a developer and a user) think it is the best for all of us.

How is that any different to getting your license before you drive a car?

Lars Doucet
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Hakim Boukellif
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You don't see the problem with giving a (potential) competitor access to your software's kill switch?

It's not quite the same as getting a driver's license either. You need a driver's license to be allowed to drive a motorized vehicle on public roads. The government owns those roads, so they get to decide what you can and can't do on them. Continuing with this analogy, Apple doesn't own the "road" (i.e. your system with MacOS installed) they just made it. It'd be like the road construction company stationing people on the roads they made to make sure no red cars drive on them.

Jeffrey Crenshaw
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"Apple doesn't own the "road" (i.e. your system with MacOS installed)"

That's the future we're heading for, it seems.

Simon Carless
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There's a good explanation/opinion piece on this by the Panic folks, who make nice Katamari Damacy T-shirts (their relation to the game industry!) but also a bunch of neat Mac apps:

Lars Doucet
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That's a good explanation and makes me slightly less mad, but I'm still bristling at everyone having to fork over cash. I get that the $99 charge is so that people can't just auto-apply, but still grrr.... and I definitely don't trust Apple any further than I could throw them.

If I have to pick between security and freedom then I pick freedom. But maybe that's just me.

Steven An
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All depends on what the UI is like... they already pop up an "Are you sure?" dialog for stuff you download from the internet. But there's an easy button to say, "Yes, I'm sure". Is there going to be a similar button on the new dialog box...or will users have to right click?

Ben Schlessman
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As far as I know, all this will do is pop up with a window that says something along the lines of "We were unable to identify this software. Are you sure you want to open it?" So, nothing really new.

Robert Ferris
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This seesm far less annoying than when Vista was first introduced. If you are really that annoyed by it, don't develop for Macs. This seems to be an effort to prevent the same kind of rampant problem PCs have with viruses and other malware. Sounds great to me.

Casey Gatti
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This is good for "everyday" customers in the long-run. Since the Mac user base has increased and there have been small instances of malware, it's the next logical step to help protect the users. Not to worry though, experienced Mac users, creative professionals, web developers and (most importantly) the gamer crowd will always disable that function for many years to come.

Branislav Vajagic
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"Not to worry though, experienced Mac users, creative professionals, web developers and (most importantly) the gamer crowd will always disable that function for many years to come."

I sure hope so :)

I have an interesting situation here.... In my country there is no Apple store but there are Apple Certified Premium Resellers (what a BS title, but....) and I can buy some of Apple products completely legally, for example macbook. I can register it with Apple, which I did and they even support my language! But I cannot register for MacStore because my country is not supported and so I cannot get anything from the store, and now they want this!

Funny part is that I can register as Apple developer, and I am, but I cant have store account..... brilliant Apple!

wes bogdan
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Ah progress,reminds me of tron's Master Control Program......

Gil Salvado
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The simplest way of security is often the worst.

Jorge Gonzalez Sanchez
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Apple products were always toys, so nothing is really lost.

They should team up with the guys at VTech. You know, the ones who make those Cars-Themed laptops for preschoolers?