Mac News Review

Macs Good Values, Nehalem 'Blows Everything Else Away', Free Lotus Symphony for Mac, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2008.11.07

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

Apple Updates

Products

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Mossberg: Macs Not Cheap, but Good Values

The Wall Street Journal's Walter S. Mossberg says:

"It's time for my annual fall PC buyer's guide.

"But this autumn, we find ourselves in a serious global economic slowdown. So I will focus this edition of the guide on how folks whose PC budgets have shrunk can still get something adequate for light use....

"I consider the Mac operating system, Leopard, to be faster, easier and more stable than Windows XP or Windows Vista. It isn't susceptible to the vast majority of malicious software that circulates on the Internet....

"However, Apple has consciously chosen not to offer machines in the bargain category. The cheapest Mac desktop, the minimalist Mac mini, which doesn't even include a monitor, speakers, keyboard or mouse, costs $650 for a model with a hard disk I consider adequate. The cheapest Mac laptop, the base model of the prior-generation MacBook (which Apple has retained in its lineup) is $999.

"Both are good values, mainly due to the software. And Macs can save you money over time. But if the lowest upfront cost is your objective, you can pay hundreds less for desktops and laptops from Windows PC makers...."

Mac mini Fans: Hang in There

AppleInsider reports:

"Apple appears to be taking its policing of the rumor mill to the phones, in one case dialing a customer who expressed concern over Internet reports on the Mac mini's fate to assure him the situation would be addressed in due time.

"Having read a blog post speculating that a discontinuation of the current Mac mini line overseas may be indicative of the product's ultimate demise, one advocate of the tiny desktops fired off an email with his concerns to Apple's newly-crowned Mac hardware engineering chief Bob Mansfield.

"Although Mansfield didn't issue a personal reply, a colleague in Apple's executive care division did almost immediately, offering no timetable for a Mac mini update but assuring that the company was well aware of system's market value, and suggesting the customer continue to exercise patience."

Editor's note: The Mac mini was last updated in August 2007, and Apple has announced that there will be no new Macs until 2009. dk

Quad-core Nehalem (i7) 'Blows Everything Else Away'

The Guardian's Jack Schofield reports:

"Intel's long-awaited Nehalem processor has hit the net with a bang, and ChannelWeb says it is 'so powerful that it simply destroys previous CPU benchmarks. An early look at the company's new chips shows they have the potential to drive current data center-class performance onto the desktop. Early results show nearly historic levels of improvement over previous generations of processors.'

"Indeed, YoYoTech, a UK-based supplier, has just announced 'the fastest, single-processor, production machine ever,' on SPEC benchmarks. Its Fi7ePower MLK1610 (sic) has an Intel Core i7 965 processor and 9 GB of high-performance Corsair DDR3 memory on an Asus P6T motherboard, and looks like an 8-core system (with hyperthreading) to your standard 64-bit Vista...."

Editor's note: Nehalem is designed from the ground up as a 4-core CPU. Each core has its own L1 cache and 256 KB L2 cache, and the entire CPU shares an 8 MB L3 cache. With hyperthreading, it can act like an 8-core CPU. The new CPU officially ships on Nov. 19 at speeds up to 3.2 GHz and will very likely be in the next generation Mac Pro and Xserve. dk

How Much Ink Is Left in That Dead Cartridge?

PC World's Jeff Bertolucci reports:

"You've probably had this experience: Your printer tells you it's time to change the cartridge, but you dismiss the message and keep printing. Days or weeks later, you're still using the same cartridge and thinking to yourself that rumors of its death were greatly exaggerated.

"Or perhaps your printer simply shuts down when it decides you've gone deep enough into its ink well, refusing to operate until you replace the cartridge, though you suspect there's plenty of ink left.

"PC World decided to do some real lab testing on this issue; and the results confirm what you may have suspected: Many manufacturer-branded (OEM) and third-party (aftermarket) vendor cartridges leave a startling amount of ink unused when they read empty. In fact, some inkjet printers force users to replace black ink cartridges when the cartridge is nearly half full, PC World has found....

"Test Center results show that models from Canon, Epson, and Kodak reported ink cartridges as being empty when in some cases the tanks had 40 percent of their black ink remaining....

"The quantity of unused ink ranged from about 8 percent in an Epson-brand cartridge to a whopping 45 percent in an aftermarket cartridge for a Canon printer. After posting low-ink warnings, those printers wouldn't let us resume printing until we inserted a new cartridge....

"An average black-ink cartridge contains 8 milliliters of ink and costs about $10 which translates into a cost of $1.25 per milliliter (or more horrifyingly, $1250 per liter)....

"'I personally think that consumers are getting ripped off,' says Steve Pociask, president of the American Consumer Institute, a nonprofit educational and research institute in Washington, DC."

Editor's note: We can't recommend laser printers enough. Laser toner is much less costly per page than ink and needs to be replaced far less often, and it doesn't dry out like ink tends to do. Black & white laser printers start at under $100, and some color laser printers sell for under $300. We've been using Brother b&w lasers and a Magicolor color laser printer at Low End Mac headquarters for some time and still haven't used up the original toner cartridges. A color toner set isn't cheap ($220 for our Magicolor), but you may be able to find a local vendor who refills toner cartridges - or try your hand at refilling your spent toner cartridges. dk

If Windows Is a Dead End, What's Next?

InfoWorld says:

"The writing is on the wall. Despite a major push to sell the much-maligned Windows Vista, customers aren't buying. Nearly two years after Vista's release, Windows XP remains the standard desktop OS in business, and Microsoft has extended its availability three times (currently to August 2009) due to customer demand. Microsoft itself forecasts just 2 percent growth in Vista sales in early 2009, after lackluster sales in 2008. And that's after forcing customers to buy Vista to get XP 'downgrades.'

"So all eyes were on Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference in Los Angeles last week as Microsoft finally took the wrap off Windows 7, the successor to Vista due in early 2010.

"But early reaction is that Windows 7 is just a cleaned-up Vista. It's essentially the same kernel and the same OS, with a couple new technologies thrown in....

"If Windows 7 is more of the same, then maybe it's time to conclude that Windows is a technology dead end. Last spring, Gartner warned that Microsoft had to radically change Windows or watch it fade into irrelevancy. Windows 7 is not that radical change...."

Separating Fact from Fiction about Blu-ray

Thomas Fitzgerald says:

"Ever since Steve Jobs launched the new Apple Laptops at a special event in Cupertino recently, one story has done the rounds with quite a degree of ferocity, and it has nothing to do with the Notebooks that were released. During the Q&A session afterwards, when asked why there were no Blu-ray drives in the new notebooks Steve Jobs responded by saying that currently Blu-ray was 'a bag of hurt'. This comment has unsurprisingly been seized upon by many and twisted and contorted to mean a dozen different things. Once again, though, the dialog surrounding this has shown that there is quite a lot of misinformation floating around in cyberspace about Blu-ray and this gave the format's detractors another opportunity to jump on their collective soap boxes spread the myths about the format, most of which are simply not true. In light of this what follows is a look at some of the most common perceptions about Blu-ray and why they're wrong....

"Blu-ray is a fantastic and rapidly growing format. The reason that Apple has chosen not to include Blu-ray in their notebooks at this time is far more likely to do with economic reasons than anything to do with the future viability of the platform...."

Apple Updates

Macs That Work with 64-bit Editions of Microsoft Windows Vista

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says:

64-bit editions of Microsoft Windows Vista are supported on certain Intel-based Macs via Boot Camp. (Boot Camp is included with Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard).

Products Affected

Boot Camp, MacBook Pro (15-inch, Late 2008), Microsoft Windows Vista (64 bit editions)

These Macs support 64-bit editions of Windows Vista:

  • Mac Pro (Early 2008)
  • MacBook Pro (15-inch Early 2008)
  • MacBook Pro (17-inch Early 2008)
  • MacBook Pro (15-inch Late 2008)

Products

OWC High Performance SuperDrive Upgrades for Macs

PR: Other World Computing (OWC) has announced a full selection of SuperDrive DVD and CD reader/writer options for legacy to current Intel-based Apple computers. Available from $29.99 for Internal and from $71.99 for FireWire + USB 2.0 external models, OWC SuperDrive upgrades feature faster read/write DVD, Dual-Layer DVD, and CD burn speeds up to 20x for DVDs and 48x for CDs. In addition to standard support for DVD±R/RW, CD-R/RW, DVD-DL formats, models are also available with features including Blu-ray, LightScribe laser labeling, and DVD-RAM. OWC SuperDrive upgrades and solutions provide cost-effective options for adding the latest optical drive performance and features to virtually any system with "Plug and Play" ease.

Optical Drive Upgrades for Almost Every Mac Introduced Over the Last Decade

Whether upgrading from a factory-installed read-only drive, replacing an older slower SuperDrive, or expanding drive configuration, OWC has internal and external SuperDrive upgrades available for nearly every desktop/tower and notebook Mac computer model introduced over the last decade, including Mac Pro; PowerMac G3/G4/G5; G4 Cube; iMac G4/G5; Mac mini; eMac; PowerBook G4 Titanium 15"; PowerBook G4 12/15/17" Aluminum; and iBook G4.

"You don't need to buy a new Mac to have the latest optical drive technology," said Larry O'Connor, President, Other World Computing. "It's very cost effective and easy to upgrade your existing Mac with today's faster optical drive solutions featuring the latest read/write technologies. For some Macs, just replacing the stock optical drive with an OWC SuperDrive is all that is needed to use Apple Leopard OS 10.5, in addition to enjoying all the extra capabilities of the new drive."

OWC SuperDrive Upgrades have been fully tested for compatibility with most Apple and Windows built-in and third party DVD/CD tools and players, including Apple iTunes, Apple Disc Burner, Apple iDVD, Apple DVD Studio Pro, EMC Retrospect Express, NTI DragonBurn, Roxio Toast, Roxio Easy Media Creator, and Nero Burning. Printed instructions and online installation videos show how easy it is to install and use the latest OWC SuperDrive Upgrade.

Rebates up to $45 for Old Drive

OWC offers rebates of up to $45 to users who send in an older working optical drive to upgrade to a new, faster optical drive purchased from OWC.

The Hammacher Schlemmer LP to Digital Music Converter

Hammacher Schlemmer LP to Digital Music ConverterPR: This is the belt-driven turntable that converts your prized vinyl records to digital music files and saves them on a computer, allowing you to easily store and preserve classic out-of-print music, comedy, and spoken-word recordings for playback on a computer or transfer to an iPod.

The device connects to a computer via USB and, in addition to providing high-speed vinyl audio conversion to MP3, the turntable plays LPs at 33-1/3 and 45 rpm speeds (adapter included), and its adjustable anti-skating control provides increased stereo balancing. Includes 1/8" RCA output and cable for connection to a stereo system equipped with either a CD or AUX input. Protected by a dust cover, the system includes recording and cleaning software (PC/Mac) for breaking songs into individual tracks and the removal of scratches, hisses, and pops, but will operate with any software that supports USB audio-input sound cards. 20 1/4" W x 3" H x 17" D. (8 3/4 lb.)

$129.95

Available for Immediate Shipment.

Editor's note: Some other low cost USB turntables we're aware of are the Ion TTUSB Turntable with USB Record (currently $96.97 at Amazon.com, customer rated at 3.5 stars), the ION TTUSB05 USB Turntable ($95.14 at Amazon.com, 4 stars), the Sony PS-LX300USB USB Stereo Turntable System ($122.43 at Amazon.com, 3.5 stars), the Numark TTUSB Turntable with USB ($111.44 at Amazon.com, 4 stars), and the top rated Audio Technica AT-LP2DUSB LP-to-Digital Recording System with USB ($96.71 at Amazon.com, 4.5 stars). We hope to review one of these in coming months. dk

Software

Free Lotus Symphony 1.2 Beta for Mac

PR: At the OpenOffice.org (OO) Conference, IBM has announced a long-term commitment to the OpenDocument Format (ODF) by unveiling a roadmap for the expansion of the free Lotus Symphony office application suite to Macintosh, Ubuntu Linux, OpenOffice 3.0, and Microsoft Office customers.

In his keynote speech, Michael Karasick, Director of IBM Lotus China Development Labs, outlined the evolution of Symphony, which first appeared as a public beta on September 18, 2007. The newest version is now available in beta for the first time for the Apple Macintosh operating system (Mac OS X), and Symphony for Canonical's Ubuntu 8.0.4 Linux is also available. These new platforms reflect growing demand for Symphony, which has already been downloaded more than three million times worldwide in 28 languages.

Karasick also pointed forward to the Symphony roadmap for 2009, when future generations of Symphony will be developed entirely on the ODF 1.2 and OpenOffice 3.0 software code base, bringing it in line with the newest OO technology. This advance will also enable seamless interoperability with Microsoft Office 2007 file formats and support Visual Basic macros next year. IBM plans to deliver more than 60 new features to Symphony in 2009, building it into a versatile tool for work while pledging to keep it free on the Web for all. By synchronizing Symphony's user interface with the underlying OpenOffice 3.0 code base, IBM expects the upcoming wave of planned contributions to make a significant impact to the OpenOffice developer community and its users throughout 2009 and beyond.

Mac OS X support is among the top requests made by the members of the Symphony community. The IBM Symphony development team worked to ensure that Symphony not only works on Mac OS X but is tuned to take advantage of the Aqua GUI theme, with the originality and simplicity Mac customers have enjoyed. Initially available in English, Symphony for Mac OS X will get global language support as it progresses out of beta to general availability.

Another top request, support for Symphony on Ubuntu 8.0.4 Linux, has quickly moved to general availability. Symphony 1.1 provides a Debian package optimized for Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron). Ubuntu is a community developed operating system for laptops, desktops and servers noted for its ease of use, array of application support and focus on being ready-to-use.

"Support for Mac and Ubuntu are good examples of IBM's long-term commitment to critical standards like the Open Document format," said Karasick. "As we rebase Symphony on OpenOffice 3.0, we are very excited about providing next- generation document creation and collaboration capabilities for the millions of potential users out there. IBM also sees the potential for the global developer community to use Symphony extensibility in concert with that of ODF 1.2, so that documents can be more deeply integrated into business applications and processes."

IBM Lotus Symphony is based on OpenOffice code, with IBM enhancements that allow new capabilities through Eclipse plugins and incorporate some of the OpenOffice 3.0 code. Plugins extend the power of the individual to accomplish more varied tasks with Symphony than they could otherwise accomplish with alternatives like Microsoft Office. For example, Internet searches launched from within a document could save time while drawing precise data into the right context, increasing accuracy and impact. A Symphony plugin for IBM's Yahoo Omnifind Personal Edition search tool can help accomplish just that. Another example is the Symphony accessibility plugin, which enables the visually impaired to easily work with word processing, slide or spreadsheet files. The accessibility plug- in uses an audio screen reader to inform the individual of the content and status as changes are made. For a full list of currently available Symphony plugins at no charge, visit (http://symphony.lotus.com/software/lotus/symphony/plugin.nsf/home).

The underlying use of Eclipse through Lotus Expeditor allows developers to use open tools to customize the Symphony user interface so individuals can change their view of, and access to, desktop utilities such as file menus and toolbars for greater personal efficiency. Symphony 1.2 also contains data pilot tables, also known as pivot tables, which lets people quickly and easily sort large spreadsheets in more meaningful ways, making the spreadsheet data far more applicable and accessible to business activities.

All types of users can benefit from Lotus Symphony - spanning the spectrum of business, government and philanthropic organizations across the globe. A valuable business tool as well as a way to reduce costs, Symphony is being used by:

  • Alok Industries, a publicly traded textile and apparel fabric manufacturer in Mumbai, India.
  • The Anglican Church of Australia, based in Sydney, which is openly phasing out Office in favor of Symphony for an estimated US$150,000 in annual savings. Client organizations that benefit from Church community services will also use Symphony, including schools, youth groups and aged care facilities.
  • Calvary Baptist Academy, a private school located in Shreveport, LA, which is using Symphony as part of a small-medium business solution led by Lotus Foundations and delivered by IBM business partner, Altis Computer Systems.
  • DotRiver, a French computer services firm focusing on virtualization and storage technology.
  • The Hester Group, a Jacksonville, Florida-based branding and marketing group specializing in public awareness service announcements for diverse demographics. Symphony is part of a small-medium business solution with the Lotus Foundations software appliance, delivered by IBM business partner OnSite Technology, Inc.
  • Grupo Schahin, one of Brazil's largest, multi-industry conglomerates in banking, energy, aerospace, telecommunications and other sectors.
  • Pearson, an international media company with world-leading businesses in education, business information and consumer publishing based in the United Kingdom and New York.
  • Premier Auto Electric Ltd (PAE), a nationwide distributor of automotive parts in India.
  • Sinochem Corporation, a Beijing, China-based, state-owned petrochemical company helping to align the transformation of agriculture, energy and chemicals with the development of China's economy.
  • Smartline, an award-winning financial services firm in New South Wales, Australia.
  • Suntel, a national telecommunications leader in Sri Lanka, which installed Symphony in place of Office.
  • Winsol, a Belgium-based manufacturer of PVC and aluminum doors and other housing products.

"After one day of using Lotus Symphony, some of my users asked if they could uninstall their Microsoft Office software," said Katia Sanfins, CIO of Schahin Engineering, Grupo Schahin.

At least 80 percent of traditional and nontraditional office workers are considered "task users," who create and edit documents, spreadsheets and presentations. People in customer service and most roles in other corporate support functions fit this use pattern. These categories constitute the majority of Symphony users. Another category that is migrating to Symphony consists of "medium power users" - those with more robust needs for documents, spreadsheets and presentations. These users - such as sales departments working with clients - requires stronger interoperability to enable collaboration with Microsoft Office users.

"Lotus Symphony is an exciting offering which can save our business real dollars, up to $600 per seat. Standardising our platform Office productivity suite will allow us to streamline development by maintaining a single codebase and reduce IT support issues," said Ganesh Radhakrishnan, IT Manager, Smartline Mortgage Services. "I have been using it to load in a huge complex spreadsheet and everything works perfectly."

"Our initial evaluation and pilot of Lotus Symphony has gone very well. We see a lot of potential in leveraging Lotus Symphony, especially in support of our Mac OS X users, and look forward to participating in this beta," said Michael Colucci, VP of Architecture, Engineering and Support, Pearson.

"I have used the Symphony software and have found it to be as good as or better than Microsoft Word," said Kathy Rutledge, Calvary Baptist Academy. "After using MS Word for eighteen years, I was hesitant to even try another word processing program. But after giving Symphony a chance, I found it very user-friendly. I would recommend Symphony to anyone looking for a user-friendly software that includes word processing, slide presentation, and spreadsheet capabilities."

Lotus Symphony for Mac requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later.

Eudora 8.0b4 Released

PR: Open Source email client now based on Thunderbird client

Eudora is a mail and news application from Qualcomm based on the open source Thunderbird client from Mozilla.

Qualcomm is committed to both preserving the Eudora user experience and to maintaining maximum compatibility, for both developers and users, with Thunderbird, and to build a single development community around Thunderbird and Eudora, so that both mailers advance faster than they previously have.

Whereas "Eudora" is a branded version of Thunderbird with some extra features added by the Eudora developers, "Penelope" is an extension (also called an "add-on") that is used in Eudora and can also be used with Thunderbird. The Eudora installer includes the corresponding version of Penelope along with it so there is no need to install Penelope if you are installing Eudora. Most features in Penelope can be accessed when used with Thunderbird, but there are a few that require Eudora in order to work correctly and it's not something that gets tested.

Sometimes in documentation there is a need to differentiate the older versions of Eudora made by Qualcomm from current Thunderbird-based versions of Eudora. This will normally be done by labeling the older versions of Eudora as "original Eudora" or "Classic Eudora".

The latest beta release of Eudora, version 8.0.0b4 (which includes the Penelope extension version 0.5a1) is now available for download.

The main web page for Eudora/Penelope can be found at <http://wiki.mozilla.org/Penelope>

System requirements

  • Mac:
    • Operating System: Mac OS X 10.4.x and later
    • Minimum Hardware: Macintosh computer with an Intel x86 or PowerPC G3, G4, or G5 processor - 128 MB RAM (Recommended: 256 MB RAM or greater) - 200 MB hard drive space
  • Windows and Linux versions also available.

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