Mac News Review

Lowdown on Macs and Malware, OpenCL Spec Released, First Secure USB Flash Drive for Macs, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2008.12.12

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

The Straight Dope on Macs and Malware

PC World's Neil McAllister reports in Macworld:

"Earlier this week, Washington Post blogger Brian Krebs stunned the computing world with the revelation that Apple had quietly been recommending anti-virus software for users of Mac OS X. This news flew in the face of popular wisdom (and Apple advertising), which holds that only Windows users need fear malware and other online attacks. But the shock didn't last long. Apple quickly went into spin-control mode, claiming that the online Knowledge Base article in question was out of date and that Macs were indeed perfectly safe out of the box.

"Apple enthusiasts breathed a sigh of relief, while detractors grumbled various opinions, the gist of which amounted to 'pride goeth before a fall.' So who's right? Is Mac OS X the impenetrable fortress that Apple makes it out to be, or is it really a lurking malware death trap?

"First things first: Sit down. Take a deep breath. Pour another cup of coffee. The answer lies somewhere in the middle.

"The oft-repeated mantra that Mac OS X is safer from malware attacks than Windows is actually true"

OpenCL 1.0 Spec Released: Snow Leopard Set to Exploit GPU Power

The Register's Rik Myslewski reports:

"Apple's Snow Leopard bounded closer to reality today - and there's a strong possibility it leapt well past Windows 7 in the process.

"Today, at SIGGRAPH Asia in Singapore, the Khronos Group, a self-described 'member-funded industry consortium focused on the creation of open standard, royalty-free APIs to enable the authoring and accelerated playback of dynamic media on a wide variety of platforms and devices,' released the OpenCL 1.0 specification, which the association describes as 'the first open, royalty-free standard for cross-platform, parallel programming of modern processors found in personal computers, servers and handheld/embedded devices.'

"The release of OpenCL 1.0 is a giant step towards the long-sought goal of industry-wide GPGPU (general-purpose computation on GPUs), in which the massively parallel capabilities of GPUs (graphics-processing units) are brought to bear on general-purpose applications that would benefit from highly parallel processing. Not only would such current image-based tasks as media processing, video and sound editing, and image processing be able to tap into the resources of GPUs, but GPGPU might also enable as-yet-impossible operations such as real-time ray tracing, infallible voice recognition, and webcam-based lip reading."

Official OpenCL 1.0 Spec Paves the Way for Snow Leopard

TG Daily's Wolfgang Gruener reports:

"Khronos Group today released the OpenCL 1.0 specification, a major technology foundation for enabling software developers to take advantage of the massive parallel computing horsepower in multicore processors, including graphics processing units. Besides the previously announced array of companies supporting OpenCL, Nvidia said that it has added OpenCL to its GPU computing developer toolkit. Apple's upcoming Mac OS X code-named Snow Leopard is expected to showcase just how much potential this new technology really has.

"General purpose GPU (GPGPU) computing is one of the most significant developments in computer hardware in years, from the user's perspective perhaps in decades, but it is still very much a blurry topic for mainstream users due to the lack of mainstream applications. But an announcement that OpenCL 1.0 (Open Computing Language 1.0) is now available is a big deal. Not only does it enable developers to tap into the GPU to dramatically accelerate at least portions of their applications, it is also a first sign of a departure from proprietary GPU programming models such as Nvidia's CUDA and towards cross-platform development models.

"One of the first beneficiaries of this specification will be Apple, which announced some time ago that it will include OpenCL acceleration into Snow Leopard...."

Mac OS 9 Still Gets Stuff Done for Some

Cult of Mac's Giles Turnbull says:

"I wrote my last 'OS 9 - Blimey Some People Still Use It' article for Mac DevCenter back in 2004 (see OS 9, Mine All Mine); it was fun to write and nostalgic too, but I didn't imagine I'd be writing a similar piece four years later.

"But - blimey - there are still some people out there using OS 9 and very happy with it too, thank you very much."

OpeniMac Clone Surfaces in Argentina

The Register's Rik Myslewski reports:

"First Psystar, now OpeniMac. It appears that Apple's lawyers will soon be playing Whac-A-Mole with upstart cloners.

"Apparently, Psystar's latest legal troubles - the dismissal of the company's anti-trust complaint against Apple and the upgrading of Apple's suit against them to include alleged DMCA violations - haven't deterred Argentina-based OpeniMac from dipping their toes into the faux-Mac waters.

"Under the banner of 'Prestaciones de Mac. Precio de PC' (which, according to our junior-high Spanish, translates to 'The capabilities of a Mac. The price of a PC'), the web site of these plucky pampas-pounders advertises two versions of their sure-to-be-a-trademark-violation-named OpeniMac and OpeniMacPRO."

iPhone Sales Help Boost Mac OS X

PC Mag's Chloe Albanesius reports:

"Global sales of the iPhone during the third quarter boosted Apple's smart phone market share and propelled its Mac OS X to the number three position ahead of Microsoft's Windows Mobile, according to a Thursday report from Gartner.

"Overall growth in the market was the slowest in years, but the introduction of the iPhone 3G and new BlackBerry devices from RIM helped increase both companies' market shares."

Apple Updates

How to Clean Apple Products

A new Apple Knowledge Base article says:

If your Apple product is dusty or you need to clean it for some other reason, follow the guidelines below.

Products Affected

iMac (20-inch, Mid 2007), iMac (24-inch Mid 2007), eMac, Displays, Portable Computers, iMac (24-inch, Early 2008), iMac (20-inch, Early 2008)

Cleaning the display

  • Disconnect the power cord and verify that the product is turned off.
  • Use a soft, dry, lint-free cloth, or the cleaning cloth that was provided, to wipe dust from the screen.
  • If needed, lightly dampen the cloth with water only and wipe the screen.
  • Do not spray liquid directly on the screen.

Cleaning the enclosure

  • Shut down the product and disconnect all cables.
  • Use a damp, soft, lint-free cloth to clean the exterior. Avoid getting moisture in any openings.
  • Do not spray liquid directly onto the product.
  • Do not use aerosol sprays, solvents, or abrasives that might damage the finish.

Warning: Don't clean the screen with a cleaner containing alcohol or acetone. Use a cleaner intended for use with a screen or display. Never spray cleaner directly on the screen. It may drip inside the display and cause damage.

Products

First Secure USB Flash Drive to Fully Support Mac Users

SanDisk Cruzer EnterprisePR: SanDisk Corporation has announced that the SanDisk Cruzer Enterprise is the first secure USB flash drive to fully support Apple Mac OS X computers. Available now, SanDisk Cruzer Enterprise helps IT professionals more effectively protect information on company-issued secure USB drives in Macintosh environments.

SanDisk Cruzer Enterprise is designed to meet the unique USB security, compliance and manageability needs of today's enterprises by imposing a hardware-based USB encryption solution that puts mandatory access control on all files as protection against theft or loss of the drive. By supporting Macintosh and Microsoft Windows environments, IT professionals can more effectively use SanDisk Cruzer Enterprise to protect information on company-issued secure USB flash drives across their organizations.

"SanDisk Cruzer Enterprise is ideal for the millions of business users who use Macs at home or in the office," said Yariv Fishman, senior manager, product marketing management, enterprise division, SanDisk. "It combines a simple, user-friendly interface with the addition of SanDisk's tough security and ultra-fast transfer speeds. It's the first secure USB flash drive that provides full Mac support by allowing initialization of the drive directly on a Mac platform."

Cruzer Enterprise in Mac OS X and Windows PC environments has the same features and data security - even if used in both environments. The device can be initialized from either a Macintosh or Windows computer, where users can:

  • Log in and shut down access to the encrypted storage area
  • Change and manage passwords
  • Change contact information, language and other preferences
  • Launch online support, view current firmware and drive information

Available in 1-, 2-, 4- and 8-gigabyte (GB) configurations, Cruzer Enterprise supports Apple Macintosh computers running Mac OS X 10.4 "Tiger" and Mac OS X 10.5 "Leopard." Cruzer Enterprise safeguards all files stored on the drive with advanced hardware-based 256-bit AES USB encryption, which combined with advanced password protection makes it extremely difficult for unauthorized users to access data if the drive is lost or stolen. Existing Cruzer Enterprise users may download a firmware update at http://www.sandisk-enterprise.com/macupdaterwww.sandisk.com

OWC Makes Gift Giving Easy with Holiday Specials

PR: Other World Computing makes gift giving simple with a Holiday Specials page.

With 80 suggestions starting at $2.99 to suit every budget, products featured on OWC's Holiday Specials website range from iPhone/iPod accessories to performance boosting memory for the latest MacBook and MacBook Pro "Unibody" notebook computers.

"With one of the biggest on-line catalogs of Mac, iPod, and iPhone products and plenty of time to ship before the holidays, OWC is the one-stop shopping choice for holiday gifts," said Other World Computing CEO Larry O'Connor. "Whether it is making legacy to the newest Macs faster with a memory upgrade, adding a SuperDrive to burn DVDs and CDs, or getting more iPod and iPhone functionality, OWC has what you need for everyone on your list."

Holiday Specials include:

  • Newer Technology DockSpot $2.99 Plug an LED flashlight into your iPod.
  • Newer Technology 11 Piece Mac & iPod Tool Kit $17.95 All the screwdrivers and torx tools you need when upgrading your computer, iPod, and other devices.
  • Newer Technology Voyager Quad Interface Hard Drive Docking Solution $99.99 The easiest way to access data from any 2.5" or 3.5" Serial ATA (SATA) hard drive up to 2.0 TB.
  • 4.0 GB Memory Upgrade Kits from $39.99 Make your Mac go faster with an easy to install, Premium OWC Memory Upgrade Kit
  • SuperDrive Your Computer with OWC DVD±RW, Blu-ray for as low as $27.99 External and internal SuperDrive options for burning DVDs, Dual-Layer DVDs, Blu-ray, and CDs.
  • Canon PIXMA IP1800 Color Photo Printer $29.00 Get those holiday pics out of the camera and into albums and the hands of family and friends.
  • Newer Technology Bass Response Earbuds for Apple iPod and iPhone $14.99 Better sounding "buds" for your iPod and/or iPhone.
  • NewerTech TrafficJamz iPod FM Transmitter/Auto Charger $12.99 For less than the cost of a fruitcake, you can take your tunes over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house with NewerTech TrafficJamz iPod FM Transmitter/Auto Charger.
  • Get Prosoft Drive Genius v2 for up to $79 OFF RETAIL with Qualifying Purchase Save up to $79 on Drive Genius 2 with the purchase of OWC and/or NewerTech storage solutions Maintain, Optimize, Slim-Down, even Repair your Hard Drive/Storage Volumes. Same Software that is used by Apple Retail Stores in the "Genius Bar" - Now who's the genius?!
  • Get up to $30 per Hitachi Hard Drive, up to $120 per select OWC/NewerTech storage in Rebate Savings Special Cash Back Rebates on Notebook, Desktop/Tower, RAID, RACK, & Portable Drives through Dec. 31st.

Software

MacUpdate Holiday Bundle - 10 Top Apps for $49.99

PR: Here's an amazing opportunity to get Prosoft's Drive Genius 2 for half price with nine other great applications thrown in too. MacUpdate is celebrating the holidays this year with a 2008 Holiday Bundle featuring $450 worth of applications for just $49.99 and is available through December 18. Buyers receive all 10 bundled applications immediately, and a new gifting system makes it easy to purchase copies for friends and family. In addition, buyers who purchase or gift three bundles receive a fourth bundle, free.

MacUpdate is celebrating the holidays this year with a software bundle that delivers great value and appeal to every Mac user. The 2008 Holiday Bundle features $450 worth of applications for just $49.99 and is available through December 18. Buyers receive all 10 bundled applications immediately, and a new gifting system makes it easy to purchase copies for friends and family. In addition, buyers who purchase or gift three bundles receive a fourth bundle, free!

Included in the bundle:

  • Drive Genius 2 ($99): Currently the highest-rated disk utility on the market and used by Mac Geniuses at Apple Stores, Drive Genius diagnoses and repairs problems with your hard drive, optimizes your system, and much more. Buyers will receive a link to download a bootable DVD image of the software to burn, which can be used to boot and fix any Mac that can run Mac OS X 10.5, including Apple's newest laptops. Notable Mentions: MacLife Editor's Choice pick (July 2008), 2008 MacUser Labs winner against competing disk utilities, Macworld UK Editor's Choice (5/5 rating), "Excellent" rating from ATPM. (Read Charles W. Moore's recent review of Drive Genius 2.0.3 on Applelinks.)
  • DefaultFolder X 4 ($34.95): Fly through Open & Save dialog boxes at lightning speed. Notable Mentions: 4.5/5 rating from Macworld, 5/5 rating from MacUser UK, and numerous other awards
  • VirusBarrier X 10.5 ($69.95): Fast, simple, and nonintrusive anti-virus software for your Mac and iPhone Notable Mentions: 4.5/5 rating from Macworld in July 2008, which called it "the gold standard"
  • RapidWeaver 4 ($79): Create powerful, professional-looking Web sites quickly and easily. Notable Mentions: 2008 Macworld Editor's Choice pick (5/5 rating), 4.5/5 rating from MacFormat magazine
  • MacGourmet Deluxe ($44.95): Like iTunes for food, track recipes, plan meals, manage wines, and more. Notable Mentions: 4/5 rating by MacLife magazine
  • LittleSnitch 2 ($29.95): Monitors your network connection to make sure your Mac only sends out what you want it to. Notable Mentions: 4.5/5 rating by Macworld, 5/5 rating by MacUser UK
  • KeyCue 4 ($27): Displays full keyboard shortcuts for all your applications; learn them and work faster. Notable Mentions: 4.5/5 rating by Macworld, 5/5 rating by MacNotes
  • MacPilot 3 ($19.95): Access hundreds of hidden features to customize and improve your Mac OS X experience. Notable Mentions: 5/5 rating by MacCompanion magazine, 4/5 rating by Macworld UK
  • WhatSize 4 ($12.99): Effortlessly identify files that are hogging disk space and that you don't need anymore. Notable Mentions: 4/5 rating by Macworld, prominently mentioned in the latest issue of MacFormat magazine
  • iVolume 3 ($29.95): Ensures all your iTunes tracks play back at the same level, so you never have to adjust the volume individually.

"We're excited to be delivering this award-winning bundle of applications to Mac users this holiday," said Nate Houle, coordinator of MacUpdate Promo. "Our developer partners understand that value counts more than ever during this time of year, and both novices and experts will be able to get a lot more out of their Macs with this collection of software."

The MacUpdate Holiday Bundle is available for $49.99 exclusively from MacUpdate Promo.

Volitans Software Holiday Hard Drive Giveaway

PR: Volitans Software announces a Holiday Hard Drive Giveaway. In the spirit of the holidays, Volitans Software is giving away one free hard drive to a lucky winner. The winner will have the choice between a 1.5 TB desktop hard drive or a 500 GB laptop hard drive. To enter, fill out the form on the giveaway entry website.

Volitans Software, maker of SMART Utility, wants to celebrate the holiday spirit by giving away a free hard drive. Since SMART Utility allows scanning for bad hard drives, and those hard drives need replaced, a perfect compliment is a free hard drive.

Winner chooses between new Momentus 5400.6 SATA 500-GB Hard Drive (model ST9500325AS) or Barracuda 7200.11 SATA 1.5 TB Hard Drive (model ST31500341AS), or equivalently priced drive if model is unavailable. The prize will be shipped free of charge to the winner. The giveaway runs from December 9th, 2008 to December 24th, 2008. The winner is randomly picked December 25th.

Full Rules and Fine Print:

  • No purchase necessary to win, but try a copy of SMART Utility while you are here. It's a great way to check out your current hard drive. Note that purchasing SMART Utility does not increase your chances of winning.
  • Entry period runs from 12:01 am EST on December 9th, 2008 until 11:59 p.m. EST December 24th, 2008.
  • Winner chooses between new Momentus 5400.6 SATA 500-GB Hard Drive (model ST9500325AS) or Barracuda 7200.11 SATA 1.5 TB Hard Drive (model ST31500341AS), or equivalently priced drive if model is unavailable.
  • Winner will be selected at random on December 25th, 2008 from the email entries and notified by email. Winner will be posted on the website on or after January 15th, 2009.
  • Winner must respond within 7 days of being selected or a new winner will be chosen. Volitans Software will not be responsible for email delivery failures, including but not limited to power outages, server crashes, filtering technologies, or incorrect email addresses.
  • Only one entry per person, as multiple entries will be discarding. Entries will be monitored for cheating, and entrants may be disqualified if such cheating is discovered.
  • Giveaway is open to individuals who are legal residents of the United States and 18 years of age or older. Individuals must also be legally allowed to participate in giveaways. Giveaway void where prohibited by law. While we appreciate all our customers in all states as well as in all countries across the world, laws very greatly and we cannot satisfy all legal requirements everywhere.
  • By participating in the giveaway, entrant agrees to not sue Volitans Software and not hold Volitans Software liable for mistakes or other violations.

SMART Utility is an application to scan the internal hardware diagnostics system of hard drives SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology) is a system built into hard drives by their manufacturers to report on various measurements (called attributes) of a hard drive's operation. The attributes can be used to detect when a hard drive is having mechanical or electrical problems, and can indicate when the hard drive is failing. SMART Utility can read and display these attributes. This allows time to hopefully backup, and then replace the drive.

SMART Utility is different from other drive utilities, such as Disk Utility, which only read the overall SMART Status. SMART Utility not only displays the individual attributes to see their status and information, but it also uses an internal algorithm based on those attributes to detect drives failing before SMART indicates it has failed. This pre-fail detection can save precious data before SMART has determined that the drive has failed. And, while the raw information can be viewed on the command line with smartmontools (which is what SMART Utility is based on), SMART Utility presents it in an easy to read format, as well as running its internal pre-fail algorithm.

Features:

  • Displays all supported drives and their partitions
  • Displays easy to read overall SMART status with color coded text
  • Displays important information in the main window, such as drive model, capacity, power on hours, temperature, bad sector counts, and error counts and types
  • Displays more detailed information in separate windows, including capabilities, all available attributes, and the past five errors
  • Supports scanning individual RAID drives in addition to non-RAIDed drives
  • Supports logging all information to a log file for verifying SMART data
  • Supports Mac OS X 10.4 or later (including Server) and both PowerPC and Intel Macs

SMART Utility is available in a variety of licenses: a personal license for $25 (USD), a family license for $40, an educational license for $65 and a business license for $100. It can be purchased online or in an innovative way: within SMART Utility itself through its embedded web store.

OnyX 2.0b2 Released - Freeware OS X Maintenance & Optimization Tool

PR: Onyx is a utility for maintenance, optimization, and personalization for Mac OS X. OnyX allows you to run miscellaneous tasks of system maintenance, to configure certain hidden parameters of the Finder, Dock, Safari, Dashboard, Exposé, Disk Utility... to delete cache, to remove a certain number of files and folders that may become cumbersome, to see the detailed info of your configuration, to preview the different logs and CrashReporter reports, to check the Preferences files and more.

It allows you to run misc. tasks of system maintenance, to configure certain hidden parameters of the Finder, Dock, Safari, Dashboard, Exposé, Disk Utility... to delete cache, to remove a certain number of files and folders that may become cumbersome, to see the detailed info of your configuration, to preview the different logs and CrashReporter reports, to check the Preferences files and more.

OnyX is delivered with Uninstall-Onyx, an independent application allowing to individually remove the components created while installing and using OnyX (preferences, history...).

A "Extras" folder contains some icons of replacement created by voluntary sympathetic users.

OnyX was created using Xcode 3.1.2, the Apple Developer Tools (Cocoa - AppleScript Studio + Objective-C) on a PowerBook G4 Titanium 550 MHz with Mac OS X (version 10.4.8).

OnyX is an Universal Binary application and works with all Macintosh PowerPC and Intel computers running Mac OS X version 10.4.x (Tiger). To run correctly, OnyX must be run from an admin account.

OnyX is also available for Mac OS X 10.3 Panther (OnyX version 1.5.3) and Mac OS X 10.1.5 Puma and 10.2 Jaguar (OnyX version 1.3.1).

New in version Version 2.0b2 (WARNING: Beta Version):

  • Compiled with Xcode 3.1.2
  • Deleting the applications Cache improved
  • Deleting the Internet Cache improved
  • Deleting the logs improved
  • Confirm when closing multiple pages in Safari
  • Rebuilding the dyld's shared cache in the Automation panel
  • Rebuilding the Mail's Envelope Index in the Automation panel
  • Corrections in the translations
  • Help improved
  • Uninstaller updated

System requirements: OnyX 2.0b1 requires Mac OS X 10.5 or later to run.

System support: OnyX 2.0b1 is an Universal Binary application and works with all Macintosh PowerPC and Intel computers running Mac OS X 10.5 or later (Leopard).

OnyX is Freeware, gratis and freely usable; you may copy and distribute it at will.

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