Mac News Review

Mac Malware Count Reaches 3, Desktop PCs Making a Comeback, Mac mini in the Living Room, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2008.07.25

PowerBook, iBook, MacBook, and other portable computing is covered in The 'Book Review. iPod, iPhone, and Apple TV news is covered in The iNews Review.

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Products

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Malware Authors Take Aim at Growing Number of Macs

The Houston Chronicle's Dwight Silverman says:

"In November, I wrote that many Windows users who are switching to the Mac are doing so because they're fed up with viruses, spyware and other threats aimed at the platform. Many are victims of malware that often relies on social engineering to infect a system. They're enticed into taking some action that places malevolent code on their machines.

"In other words, these users' bad computing habits are a major cause of their own woes.

"These security-clueless folks, I wrote, are now bringing those bad habits to the Macintosh platform, and according to a new story on Times Online, the bad guys are starting to notice. With Apple's market share now around 8.5 percent - and growing quickly, with sales of almost 2.5 million Macs in the last quarter - these Mac newbies are a tempting target for profit-minded cybercriminals."

Editor's note: Silverman notes that two pieces of OS X malware have been introduced this year, both of them Trojans. That is, they require that the user download, install, and run them. Because they are not viruses and cannot replicate and distribute themselves, neither has become widespread. This brings the number of OS X malware found on the Internet to three - all of them Trojans.

  1. The first OS X Trojan seen outside the lab was OSX.RSPlug.A, which was discovered in October 2007. It worked by changing your Mac's DNS settings and redirecting you to "malicious" servers, and it was often found on websites serving adult content, where it was billed as a video codec.
  2. Troj/MacSwp-B (a.k.a. Imunizator) is sometimes classified as "scareware" and was first discovered in March. When run it "fraudulently claims that it has found several privacy violations" and tries to sell you software to cure the nonexistent problems. This puts it in the tradition of MacSweeper, and earlier scareware program that did the same thing.
  3. The freeware ARD Patcher inoculates Macs against OSX/Hovdy-A (a.k.a. AppleScript-THT, ASthtv05, AStht_v06 ). dk

Microsoft's Real Problem: The Second Coming of Apple

Silicon Alley Insider's Henry Blodget says:

"As Microsoft continues to waste time and resources figuring out how to win a sideline game it has already lost - Internet media - its shareholders have bigger things to worry about. Namely, the future of the Windows and Office cash cows.

"It has been so long since Microsoft had anything real to worry about in these businesses that it's easy to take their perpetual domination for granted. Don't.

"We've written frequently about the cloud computing threat: Google, Yahoo, Amazon, and other web-based services companies offering functionality and apps for free that Microsoft currently charges a boatload for. Microsoft is aware of this threat and is moving to try to combat it....

"The second major threat, however, comes from a company that Microsoft once left on the edge of death: Apple....

"One-Third of US PC Market Growth in Q2 Was Apple Macs"

Is the Desktop PC Making a Comeback?

IDG News Service's Dan Nystedt reports:

"Mobile computers such as laptops have had tremendous momentum in the market the past few years, but the stodgy desktop may be making a comeback.

"Converge, a US company that does much of its work with chip spot markets, noted in its most recent report Wednesday that a rare shortage has emerged in desktop microprocessors....

"Gartner noted Wednesday in its second quarter PC market report that desktop PC shipments gained traction among professional users in the US The market researcher says that may be occurring because of growing economic uncertainty in the US

"Since desktop PCs cost less than mobile PCs, they are a less expensive option for businesses with tighter IT budgets, Gartner said."

Apple Tied with Acer for Third Place in US Sales

Worldwide PC shipments continued to grow at a healthy pace in the second quarter of 2008 (2Q08), according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. Shipments were up 15.3% from a year ago - slightly more than second quarter projections and first quarter growth of 14.9%. Solid growth in the EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa) region helped offset slower growth in Asia/Pacific excluding Japan (APeJ).

Top 5 PC Vendors worldwide

"Despite the economic headwinds, the PC market continued to show its resilience," said Loren Loverde, director of IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. "Product refreshes, vendor competition for channels, and aggressive pricing add to the ongoing trend toward Portable computing in attracting buyers. The steady growth, despite the pressure on consumer finances, reflects the increasingly important role of PCs within personal technology, and steady improvements in price and design. Nevertheless, economic pressures are mounting and PC market growth is expected to decline over the next year. The relatively strong PC market in recent quarters does not mean that the sector is immune to the changing economic environment."

"As expected, the US market had a sluggish performance, with growth in low single-digits due to budgetary constraints among both consumers and businesses. Despite a tough economic environment, some vendors executed well, in particular Dell with its channel and retail expansion," said David Daoud, research manager, Personal Computing. "Given the current economic fundamentals, demand could remain depressed in the coming quarters if economic pressures continue, even with sustained price decreases."

Regional Outlook

In line with expectations, demand in the United States suffered from ongoing economic pressures. Growth was in the low single-digits as consumer and businesses tightened their PC spending budgets. From a competitive standpoint, Dell continued its recovery with another quarter of double-digit growth, while HP saw year-on-year growth rise from the first quarter. Portable adoption remains a key market driver, even though consumer share is generally at its lowest during the second quarter.

EMEA continued to see strong PC sales driven by unabated notebook demand across the region and the additional momentum created by new ultra low-cost offerings. Total shipment growth came in slightly greater than in the first quarter of 2008 as the strong Euro and aggressive competition continued to support PC purchasing despite rising energy costs.

Top 5 PC Vendors in US

Unlike metrics released by Gartner Group this week, IDC pegs Apple tied in a dead heat with Acer for third place in US PC sales, rather than slightly ahead.

The Japan market remained sluggish overall, although growth in the mid-single digits was up from the first quarter with contributions from both consumer and commercial segments. The depreciation of the US dollar has helped vendors such as HP and Dell make inroads, and the troubles of Everskill Technology have also benefited other players.

Asia/Pacific (excluding Japan) saw lower than expected growth in most markets as rising energy costs and inflation concerns cut into spending. Year-on-year growth remained in the mid teens, though several percentage points slower than in recent quarters. The slowing market affected most vendors, with the top 5 all showing slower growth than last quarter.

Vendor Highlights

HP remains the worldwide market leader with solid growth of 16.8%. The company's extensive product refresh leverages HP's leadership position and should help the company target specialized niches. The company recovered from a slower first quarter in the United States, although worldwide growth was down slightly.

Dell had a solid quarter with growth outpacing the market in all regions and made strong gains in EMEA and APeJ. The company also continued to see double-digit growth in its core US market. Dell's aggressive channel partner program and retail expansion should help drive volume going forward. On the retail front, Dell recently launched a fleet of service centers within Wal-Mart stores to compete with the likes of Best Buy's Geek Squad.

Acer continued to expand worldwide shipments by roughly 64% year on year for a second consecutive quarter. Volume increased nearly as fast in EMEA, which accounted for roughly 50% of global shipments. Combined with Gateway, shipments in the United States declined from a year ago for the second consecutive quarter. Growth in APeJ slowed, but remained strong, while gains in other markets improved.

Lenovo continued to see double-digit growth, although its gains were slower than the market. Slower demand in APeJ, which represents about 60% of Lenovo volume, limited overall growth. Nevertheless, the company continued to see volume increase by more than 20% in EMEA - its second largest region.

Toshiba had a solid quarter, with growth rising to 28.5% worldwide. Although growth slowed in the US and Japan, gains in EMEA and APeJ accelerated.

Data for Acer includes shipments for Gateway starting in Q4 2007, and only Acer data for prior quarters. This reflects the legal status of the companies, which merged during the fourth quarter of 2007.

IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker gathers PC market data in 55 countries by vendor, form factor, brand, processor brand and speed, sales channel and user segment. The research includes historical and forecast trend analysis as well as price band and installed base data.

Time to Stand Up for Steve Jobs

Seeking Alpha's Jason Schwarz says:

"Why would anyone own Apple shares knowing that Steve Jobs' health may be in jeopardy? As Apple reaffirmed its official stance that the health of the company's CEO is a private matter, investors pushed Apple stock down into the $150s....

"Mr. Jobs has built an economic moat around Apple that will flourish for years to come. Microsoft (MSFT) has owned the last 25 years, and Apple is poised to be the next Microsoft-only bigger....

"If there is anybody who deserves space, it is Steve Jobs - he's earned it. I've read every bit of Apple commentary over the last few days and it shocks me that nobody has stood up for the guy. Ignorant writers assume that his company is a one hit wonder that will wilt away once he is gone. I'm sorry but it's time to accurately report what this man has accomplished over the last ten years....

"It's time to show some compassion in a world full of greed, greed, and more greed. I know that sounds naive, but every once in a while it wouldn't hurt to do the right thing...."

Editor's note: I agree wholeheartedly. cm

Apple Mac mini Revolutionizes Your Living Room

OS Weekly's Brandon Watts says:

"I've never really been interested in the Apple TV, but now that the price has dropped and some new functionality has been added that can also make the device independent from your computer, it's becoming slightly more attractive. People have hacked the Apple TV and made it run the full version of OS X, but if you use it as it is intended to be used, it doesn't even come close to giving you some of the flexibility that OS X can offer. Many of us thought the Apple TV might usher in OS X for the living room, but it's just not there yet, and I don't really think it ever will be. I mean, explain to me why it doesn't at least extend beyond media and include a Web browser. Just imagine how much more useful that addition would make the Apple TV.

"Instead of just griping about how the Apple TV doesn't truly bring OS X to the living room, why not look at the alternative ways to make that happen? Although it can be used as a regular desktop computer, the Mac mini has been crying out for us to use it in the living room, and in my mind, it's a way better fit for that purpose than the Apple TV. Not only is it a full OS X computer that contains an optical drive so you can play DVD movies and music from your CDs, but it's nice and small, and in turn, it looks good as a part of your home entertainment center. More of us will be purchasing computers for our living rooms this year, so why not choose the Mac mini?"

McCain and Obama Confirmed Mac Users

Mac Daily News reports:

"'Blogs have been buzzing recently over McCain's admission that when it comes to the Internet, "I'm an illiterate who has to rely on his wife for any assistance he can get." And the 71-year-old presumptive Republican presidential nominee, asked about his Web use last week by the New York Times, said that aides "go on for me. I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself,"" The Associated Press reports."

"'...McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan presented a somewhat updated picture when contacted by The Associated Press on Friday: "He's fully capable of browsing the Internet and checking Web sites," Buchanan said. '"He has a Mac and uses it several times a week. He's working on becoming more familiar with the Internet."'"

George W. Bush with a PowerBook G3"According to a Newsweek article published in February, Obama also uses a Mac: 'Michelle [Obama] recently bought two MacBook laptops, one for Barack and one for the kids...."

"Add McCain and Obama to the list of confirmed Mac users that includes President George Bush, Rush Limbaugh, Al Gore, Karl Rove, John Kerry, Moby, and tens of millions more...."

How to Run X11 Apps on the Mac

Macworld's Brian Jepson says:

"If you've ever thought about running Unix programs on your Mac, you might have assumed that meant you were stuck with the command-line interface. But you aren't. Go to Leopard's Applications: Utilities folder and double-click on X11.app. That will open xterm. At first, you might think it's just another command-line tool like Mac OS X's Terminal. But xterm is actually a gateway to something much bigger: the X11 graphical computing environment.

"From X11 (which runs side by side with Mac OS X's native Aqua environment), you can run a host of graphical Unix programs - applications that haven't been fully ported to Mac OS X - as well as applications on remote Linux or Unix systems. Here's a quick look at X11 and a few of the things you can do with it."

"The X11 program that I most highly recommend is GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). It's a great image editor that's actually comparable in some ways to Adobe Photoshop."

Products

Kinesis Announces First-Ever Fully Adaptable Ergonomic Keyboard

PR: Kinesis Corporation, a specialist in ergonomic computer keyboards and related devices, announced two new accessories for the award winning Freestyle Convertible Keyboard family, which includes the Freestyle Solo keyboard. The new Freestyle V3 and Ascent Multi-tent accessories, along with the previously released Incline and VIP accessories, enable the Solo keyboard to improve the comfort and productivity of nearly any computer user.

Freestyle Solo Mac keyboardThe easy-on/easy-off Freestyle accessories provide a virtual "Swiss army knife" of ergonomic features and configurations. The Freestyle Solo keyboard is available in both Macintosh and PC versions.

According to Kinesis President and CEO Will Hargreaves, Ph.D., "Our vision for the Freestyle keyboard has been a modular design to address the majority of user needs ranging from the mainstream to the specialized." Hargreaves added, "With the addition of the simple to use and inexpensive Freestyle V3 three-angle tenting accessory, and the versatile Ascent Multi-tent accessory, we have met our objectives for this product family." Both home and corporate computer users can benefit tremendously from this highly adaptable keyboard solution.

Freestyle SoloThe heart of the Freestyle lineup is the Solo keyboard. A traditional but compact key layout minimizes adaptation and eases mousing movements, but that's where traditional keyboard design ends. The Solo consists of two keying modules connected together by the flexible Pivot Tether, which allows infinite adjustment of the front opening angle (splay). Removing the Pivot Tether allows the two modules to completely separate up to eight inches. A variety of optional, interchangeable accessories, including the V3 and Ascent kits, provide features never before available from a single keyboard.

The V3 accessory clips easily to the base of the Solo Keyboard and allows quick and reproducible slope settings of 5, 10 and 15 degrees without the use of tools. The V3 can be used with or without the Pivot Tether. In addition, optional palm supports provide further flexibility. The result is a highly stable typing platform.

Freestyle Solo with Ascent multi-tentThe Ascent Multi-tent accessory for the first time enables both vertical and variable keyboard tenting as well as adjustable separation of the keying modules. Tenting angles may be independently set for each keying module in 10 degree increments ranging from 20 to 90 degrees. The sturdy, steel multi-tent modules attach with screws to the underside of the Solo keying modules. A linking plate is provided which can be attached without tools to hold the keying modules at the desired separation distance. The Ascent is intended for users who require more acute tenting angles, such as those with limited rotation of wrists, and those who just prefer a more aggressive tenting angle.

Ergonomic professionals attending the National Ergonomics Conference awarded The PC Freestyle model the "Attendees Choice Award" (Dec. 2006) as one of the products most likely to increase productivity and profitability while improving workplace health and safety. The Macintosh Freestyle model was released in June of 2008. Suggested retail price for the Freestyle V3 and Accent Multi-tent accessory is $24.95 and $199, respectively (Solo Keyboard $99).

Kensington ShareCentral Easy USB Peripheral Sharing

PR: Kensington research has determined that more than 40% of households have 3 to 4 computers belonging to different family members, and a full 70% of these households have a dedicated computing space equipped with a stationary computer, as well as a variety of peripherals, that are shared by the whole family.

Kensington ShareCentralThese multiple-computer homes have a screaming need to be able to easily share access to the peripherals they use the most, including printers (50%), scanners (30%), and external disks drives (22%) so they can turn work, homework, photos, and music gathered on notebooks, flash drives, and iPod music players into polished, finished work meant for sharing with others.

The solution is Kensington's ShareCentral, an innovative USB peripheral sharing device for the home that lets family members instantly and effortlessly share up to five USB peripheral devices between any two computers with an easy press of a button. It is available for PC & Mac users in both easy to use SKUs - ShareCentral 2 and ShareCentral 5 - key features of which include:

  • Gain instant access to your USB devices by plugging one USB cable into your computer
  • Share up to five different USB peripherals - Instantly share access to multiple USB peripherals between two computers at the press of a button.
  • Users gain instant access to their USB peripherals by plugging one simple USB cable into their computers.
  • LED lights on the product indicate which computer has access.
  • Easy to set up, simple and straightforward - ShareCentral is easy to set up and easy to use with no network or software required. Plug-n-play right out of the box!
  • No more cord clutter - ShareCentral eliminates cable mess by connecting device cables into a central desktop unit; also wall mountable.
  • Easy printer sharing - Simply press a button to switch the USB printer from one computer to another. ShareCentral 2 and ShareCentral 5 Automatic Print Sharing will detect and automatically switch to the computer that is trying to print, conveniently eliminating the need for any buttons to be pressed (available for Windows XP and Windows Vista).
  • Adaptable and personal - All USB ports are independently controlled by a button and assignable to either computer. Each button comes with interchangeable magnetic keycaps for personalization to user's device and specifications.
  • Simply press a button to switch individual USB devices from one computer to another
  • Both computers have direct access to the printer thanks to Automatic Printer Sharing
  • No software required for basic features

Kensington ShareCentralShareCentral brings the cords and cables of external devices into one small, attractive desktop or wall mounted unit, allowing people to share their choice of peripherals and content in one easy fingertip motion, with no network required.

"ShareCentral is a great example of our smart made simple design philosophy," said Frederic Frappereau, Global Product Marketing Manager at Kensington. "Everyone is mobile. Then they bring the day's data, photos and music back to one shared, usually cramped, home computing center which the entire family needs to access in those few hours between dinnertime and bedtime. Up until now, they spent that precious time switching out cords and cables to connect their computers to their peripherals. Now with ShareCentral, they can focus on sharing the content, to produce creative results of which they all can be proud."

Kensington ShareCentralThe ShareCentral Collection

  • ShareCentral 5 (SKU K33901US) - No more plugging and unplugging computer devices. With Kensington ShareCentral 5, two computers can share a printer, hard drive, scanner - up to any five USB peripherals - and switch between them with the touch of a button. Suggested Retail Price $79.99
  • ShareCentral 2 (SKU K33900US) - With the Kensington ShareCentral 2, two computers can share a printer, hard drive, scanner - any two USB devices. Suggested Retail Price $59.99
  • ShareCentral 1 (SKU K33903US) - With the Kensington ShareCentral 1, two computers can share a printer or any USB device. Suggested Retail Price $39.99

Dimensions: 3.25"L X 1.25"H

Weight: 2.6 lb. (weight includes packaging and all contents)

Warranty: ShareCentral 5 is backed by the Kensington 2-Year warranty.

Editor's note: The total cable run from computer to hub to peripheral must be no more than 16'/5m, the maximum length allowable for a USB connection, and ShareCentral only supports two of the "3 to 4 computers" found in 40% of households. Also, Mac OS X already supports printer and drive sharing over ethernet or WiFi, making a scanner just about the only thing you might share between two Macs. dk

'Beats by Dr. Dre' High Definition Headphones Available Exclusively at Apple and Best Buy

PR: Legendary artist and producer Dr. Dre, Interscope Geffen A&M Chairman Jimmy Iovine and Monster, the leader in audio/video accessories, announced that their new Beats by Dr. Dre high definition powered isolation headphones will be available on July 25th at Apple retail and online stores, Best Buy stores and BestBuy.com, as well as the official website beatsbydre.com, for a price of $349.95.

'Beats by Dr. Dre' High Definition HeadphonesTo provide consumers with a brand new level of headphone audio performance with extreme clarity, deep bass and full power which had been lacking in conventional headphones, Dr. Dre, Jimmy Iovine, and Monster set out to develop a new type of headphone with the capability to reproduce the full spectrum of sound that musical artists and producers hear in professional recording studios.

Noted Dr. Dre: "Artists and producers work hard in the studio perfecting their sound, but people can't really hear it with normal headphones. Most headphones can't handle the bass, the detail, the dynamics. Bottom line: the music doesn't move you. With Beats, people are going to hear what the artists hear and listen to the music the way they should - the way I do."

The Quest for True High Definition Headphone Sound

After endless acoustical engineering research, Monster finally achieved the kind of rich, high definition sound Dr. Dre was seeking. By combining new advanced materials, sophisticated construction, extra large drivers, and a powerful digital amplifier, Beats By Dre deliver clear vocals, detailed highs, and super low, deep bass. Furthermore, to recreate the quietness of an isolated recording studio listening experience, they also feature powered ambient noise-isolation, allowing consumers to hear all the details and nuances in their music.

Since hearing is believing, Beats by Dr. Dre headphones are exclusively available at Apple and Best Buy, which are providing special demonstration stations at select stores that give consumers the opportunity to experience the headphones for themselves.

Beats by Dr. Dre are designed to provide maximum performance when used with all of today's portable music devices - and they're being released just in time for use with the new Apple iPhone 3G. In fact, for consumers who have an iPhone, Blackberry, and other music-enabled phones, Beats By Dr. Dre comes with additional Monster iSoniTalk headphone cable with integrated high grade microphone and answer button.

"Dre and I have been developing these headphones for a while and in Monster we found a partner that could work with us to crystallize his vision and develop them to the quality level he expects," said Jimmy Iovine, Chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records. "Beats By Dr. Dre is yet another example of Interscope's commitment to working together with its artists in developing new avenues to experience music."

Kevin Lee, VP of Product and Marketing for Monster, noted: "After three years of hard work, we're extremely excited about launching Beats By Dr. Dre. This is the most advanced headphone ever built and delivers a music experience I think people will find amazing."

Beats by Dr. Dre feature a unique stylish look and fashion, and come with a convenient, hip carrying case. The wide adjustable headband, soft plush hinged ear cups and high-quality Monster cable makes the Beats listening experience unmatched for comfort and sound.

About Dr. Dre

In addition to being a multiple Grammy award winning producer, Dr. Dre is an artist who helped create groundbreaking records with the group N.W.A. and landmark multi-platinum solo albums The Chronic and Dr. Dre 2001. He is currently working on his third and final album, Detox. Dre has also shaped the careers of numerous artists including Snoop Dogg and Eminem, who is signed to Dre's record company, Aftermath Entertainment. Dre has been associated in producing countless hits for a range of artists including 50 Cent, Gwen Stefani, Mary J. Blige and Eve with a combined worldwide sales total of more than 80 million records sold over the past two decades.

About Jimmy Iovine

Jimmy Iovine is the Chairman of Interscope Geffen A&M Records whose artists include U2, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Gwen Stefani, Fergie, Mary J. Blige, Nelly Furtado and The Black Eyed Peas. Prior to founding Interscope in 1990, Iovine was an acclaimed record producer and engineer and was twice voted Producer of the Year by Rolling Stone magazine. He produced chart-topping albums for artists including U2, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Dire Straits, Bob Seger, Patti Smith and Stevie Nicks and engineered albums for John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen.

About Monster

Monster, under its Monster Cable brand, is the world's leading manufacturer of connectivity solutions for high performance audio, video, car audio, computer, console and computer gaming, professional audio and sound reinforcement. Monster, under its Monster Power brand, is also the leading manufacturer of high performance AC power line conditioning and protection products for audio/video systems.

BRU Server/Parallels Virtualization

PR: TOLIS Group, Inc. announces a partnership with Parallels, Inc., a world leader in virtualization software. TOLIS' BRU Server™ network backup solution has been successfully tested for compatibility with Parallels Server for Mac virtualization software. TOLIS Group is the developer of the ultra-reliable BRU brand of data backup and restore solutions and is a Parallels Technology Partner. BRU Server is now listed in the Parallels Certified Products Catalog.

Virtualization software optimizes hardware investments by allowing systems to run virtual machines of different operating systems concurrently. Parallels Server for Mac is the first available server virtualization solution to virtualize the Mac. Traditionally the backup and restores of virtualized system content can be fraught with complexity.

"In virtualized system environments, BRU Server's advanced architecture simply treats the host and guest systems as networked client systems," said Tim Jones, president and CTO of TOLIS Group. "Both file by file and disaster recovery compatible image backup and restore of guest systems are supported using normal BRU Server operations - no special treatment is needed. BRU Server and Parallels work together seamlessly."

"Parallels is excited to have BRU Server as one of the first applications certified with Parallels Server for Mac," said Bryan Goode, Director of Business Development, Parallels. "As customers increasingly require reliable and tested backup and restore software we are pleased to see a company like TOLIS join our Certification Program."

BRU Server's agents provide full backup support for all guest systems including: x86 Windows, Solaris, Open and FreeBSD, Linux, and Mac OS X. Additionally, TOLIS' OFM module allows the proper management of open file environments such as Exchange, FileMaker and Active Directory running on Windows virtualized machines.

Parallels is a worldwide leader in virtualization and automation software that optimizes computing for consumers, businesses, and service providers across all major hardware, operating systems, and virtualization platforms. Founded in 1999, Parallels is a fast-growing company with 900 employees in North America, Europe, and Asia.

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