Mac News Review

Macs in 12% of US Homes, 35 Apps for Better Browsing, BlackBerry Desktop for Mac, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2009.10.08

We're posting our weekly news roundups a day early this week, because we taking a long weekend to attend my son's wedding. Congratulations, Brian and Michelle! dk

MacBook, PowerBook, iBook, 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 & Services

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

12% of US Households Have Macs

PR: NPD's second annual Household Penetration Study focuses on online household ownership of CE products and consumer demographics. Then it goes deeper, reporting on the number of devices owned by category and exploring consumers' cross-category ownership. And it includes year-over-year comparisons based on the data from the 2008 study.

Combine all of that with the expert perspective of NPD industry analysts Stephen Baker, Liz Cutting, and Ross Rubin, and you've got the technology industry's latest must-have report.

Get the insight you need to understand consumer ownership and cross-ownership of electronics products. If you put last year's Household Penetration Study to work for your business, then you know how it can help you develop more targeted advertising campaigns, promotional messages, and marketing partnerships.

5 of 6 Mac Households Also Have Windows Computers

PR: Nearly 85% of all Apple households also own a Windows PC. While Apple owners tend to own more computers and more electronics devices, there is also a high correlation among Apple owners and more affluent consumer households. Thirty-six percent of Apple computer owners reported household incomes greater than $100,000, compared to 21% of all consumers.

According to leading market research company The NPD Group's 2009 Household Penetration Study, approximately 12% of all U.S. computer owning households own an Apple computer, up from 9% in 2008. While Apple ownership is growing, those households are decidedly in favor of mixed system environments. Of those 12%, nearly 85% also own a Windows-based PC.

Multiple computer ownership is a common thread in Apple computer households, with 66% of households owning three or more computers, compared to just 29% of Windows PC households. Apple owning households are decidedly more mobile as well, with 72% of them owning a notebook, whereas only 50% of households that have a Windows PC own a notebook.

Not only do Apple computer owners own more computers (and more mobile computers) than the norm they also tend to own more types of electronics, and more of them, than typical computer owning households. For example, while 36% of total computer owning households have an iPod, 63% of Apple households have one. And while almost 50% of Apple owners own some type of navigation system, only about 30% of all computer households own one.

"While Apple owners tend to own more computers and more electronics devices, there is also a high correlation among Apple owners and more affluent consumer households," said Stephen Baker, vice president of industry analysis. "Thirty-six percent of Apple computer owners reported household incomes greater than $100,000, compared to 21% of all consumers. "With a higher household income, though, it's not a surprise that those consumers are making more electronics purchases," Baker said. "The average Apple household owns 48 CE devices whereas the average computer household owns about 24. Apple household owners' actions and purchases can be used by the industry as leading indicators for hot new products and adoption."

Methodology

A total of more than 2,300 of NPD's online panelists completed this survey.

The NPD Group is the leading provider of reliable and comprehensive consumer and retail information for a wide range of industries. Today, more than 1,700 manufacturers, retailers, and service companies rely on NPD to help them drive critical business decisions at the global, national, and local market levels. NPD helps our clients to identify new business opportunities and guide product development, marketing, sales, merchandising, and other functions. Information is available for the following industry sectors: automotive, beauty, commercial technology, consumer technology, entertainment, fashion, food and beverage, foodservice, home, office supplies, software, sports, toys, and wireless.

Two-thirds of Mac Users Would Try Windows 7 - If It Were Free

ZD Net's Andrew Nusca says:

"Memo to Microsoft: if you want to take Mac users back into the fold, channel your inner AOL.

"Buried among the many facts and figures of a new study on Windows 7 adoption habits comes this little tidbit: a clear majority of users of Apple Mac OS X computers would give Windows 7 a go if it were offered to them for free."

35 Apps to Improve Your Browsing Experience

AppStorm's David Appleyard says:

"Now that widespread connectivity means you're rarely without a web connection, the Internet has become a huge part of the way in which we use our computers. Out of the box, your Mac is a powerful machine for making the most of everything the Internet has to offer, but there are a few tweaks, plugins and applications that can make it go a little bit further.

"Today I'll be taking a look at 35 different plugins and applications that will help improve your web browsing experience. Both Safari and Firefox will be covered, along with a few tools relating to networking, search, bookmarking, and - of course - taking a break from the Internet!"

Apple Seeds Mac OS X 10.6.2

AppleInsider Staff reports:

"A pre-release build of the next update to Mac OS X 10.6 was seeded to developers Monday, bringing a long list of changes, fixes and tweaks."

Snow Leopard Tip: Manually Setup New Mail Accounts

MacFixIt's Joe Aimonetti says:

"Setting up an email account is not always straight forward. Apple, with each Mac OS X release, has attempted to streamline the process offering automatic account setups. For some users, however, this poses an issue with control."

Editor's note: Tell me about it. The extra baggage of meddling setup "wizards" and the hassle of manual control is one of the reasons I dislike Mail and don't use it. cm

Can Your Mac Really Have Too Many Utilities?

Mac 360's Alexis Kayhill says:

"My next door neighbor was visiting yesterday afternoon. Amid all the talk of neighbors, kids, husbands, and Sunday football widowhood, she asked me how to do something on her Mac. I'm like the neighborhood big sister who persuaded her to toss out her Windows PC and get a Mac.

"She was wary at first, but like many PC switchers, came to love her Mac and look up to me as some kind of Techno Goddess™. Then I showed her my Mac and she went into shock. Why? What's on my Mac tends to scare neighbors, children, and pets.

"It's no secret that I collect utilities, tools, applications, Dashboard Widgets, and anything else to make my Mac life a little better. It also makes me appear technologically supernatural to my neighbors....

"My neighbor gasped and stood in shock for moment. 'What are all those things? You use all those? There must be hundreds.' Even in shock, she could count. I felt guilty....

"...is there such a thing as having too many utilities, applications, or Widgets on a Mac?"

The Best Free Open Source Mac Apps

mac.elated.com says:

A while back I came across InfoWorld's list of the best open source Windows software. I thought I'd redress the balance by listing the best open source apps for the Mac!

These are apps that I've used myself and consider to be among the best....

  • Firefox
  • Thunderbird
  • Cyberduck
  • KompoZer
  • Adium
  • NatsuLion
  • OpenOffice.org
  • GnuCash
  • GIMP
  • Seashore
  • Hugin
  • VLC
  • Miro
  • Perian
  • HandBrake
  • Blender
  • Audacity
  • Gawker
  • Celestia
  • Stellarium
  • Electric Sheep
  • VirtualBox
  • BitNami Stacks

Also see The Best Free Mac Software (below).

Apple's Eco-Sanctimony

Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin says:

"Uggghh. I love my iPhone, iMac, and MacBook Pro, but I can't stand the enviro-nitwittery of Apple management.

"WaPo reports that Apple has withdrawn from the US Chamber of Commerce over its opposition to cap-and-tax:

"Steve Milloy's Green Hell blog points out that if Apple were really concerned about environmental health, it would leave China, not the US Chamber of Commerce:

"Be sure to click on the link and see the compare and contrast photos of air quality at Apple's Cupertino CA office vs. Shenzhen, China, where iPhones are manufactured."

Products & Services

Aviator 312 Line of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 External SSDs

PR: Ultra-Small 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB SSDs Support up to 240 MB/sec Read Speeds and up to 160 MB/sec Write Speeds

Aviator 312 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 External SSDActive Media Products, manufacturer of SSDs and innovative USB drives, today announced the Aviator 312 line of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 external SSDs.

SuperSpeed USB 3.0 supports transfer speeds up to 4.8 Gbits/sec - ten times faster than USB 2.0. A312 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 external SSDs take advantage of USB 3.0's massive bandwidth, delivering unprecedented transfer speeds in an extremely compact mobile flash storage device. Measuring less than 3 inches long and only 0.2 inches thin, the A312 is smaller than a credit card and is designed to fit in a pocket. A312 SSDs can save a 25GB full-length HD movie in about two minutes. What used to take an hour to save will take only seconds with the A312 thanks to its scorching write speeds of up to 160 MB/s and read speeds up to 240 MB/s.

Aviator 312 SSDs are designed for external use, and include a carrying pouch and a USB 3.0 Micro-B cable for connection to any USB port. The 312 is fully backward compatible; it works in any USB 2.0 or 1.1 port, but requires a SuperSpeed port to reach its full performance capabilities. Unlike many other high speed external storage devices, the A312 does not require a separate power source. It draws all the power it needs directly from the USB bus. The A312 will be offered in 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB capacities.

Expected Street Prices

  • N16G-A312 16 GB Aviator 312 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 External SSD - $89
  • N32G-A312 32 GB Aviator 312 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 External SSD - $119
  • N64G-A312 64 GB Aviator 312 SuperSpeed USB 3.0 External SSD - $209

Jerry Thomson, vice president of sales at Active Media Products comments, "Aviator 312 SSDs are a groundbreaking product with performance that is eight to ten times faster than today's fastest USB 2.0 flash drives. For anyone who doesn't have hours to waste copying large files there's nothing that comes close to the Aviator 312's speed". Aviator 312 SSDs will begin shipping this quarter through Amazon at expected retail prices of $89, $119 and $209 for the 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB models respectively.

Software

RIM Launches BlackBerry Desktop Manager for Mac Users

PR: Research In Motion has exciting news for Mac users who want an easy and reliable solution that synchs their contacts, calendar appointments, tasks, and notes with their BlackBerry smartphones. A new version of the BlackBerry Desktop Manager software has been developed specifically for Mac users. The new desktop software is scheduled to be available for free download.

The new BlackBerry Desktop Manager software allows Mac users to smoothly and seamlessly sync data from Mac applications like iCal, Address Book, Microsoft Entourage and others, as well as add and remove applications, schedule automatic backups, encrypt backup files and install software updates for their BlackBerry smartphone.

BlackBerry Desktop Manager Software also integrates BlackBerry Media Sync, enabling Mac users to sync their iTunes music collections with their BlackBerry smartphone*. From within the BlackBerry Desktop Manager software, users simply select the desired iTunes playlists and the music, including song information and album art, is quickly transferred onto their BlackBerry smartphone.

Whether it's a specific iTunes playlist or a random mix of tunes, it's easy to sync the music from your Mac computer to your BlackBerry smartphone.

Your contacts, calendar appointments, tasks and notes can be synchronized with popular Mac applications.

Transfer data between BlackBerry smartphones, back up and restore information manually or automatically, and add or remove applications.

System requirements: BlackBerry Desktop Manager software is designed to run on Mac computers with Mac OS X 10.5.5 and higher and supports BlackBerry smartphones running BlackBerry OS 4.2 and higher.

* Certain music files may not be supported, including files that contain digital rights management technologies

DrawIt 3.10 for OS X - Powerful Vector-Drawing

PR: Bohemian Coding has announced DrawIt 3.10, the latest version of their easy-to-use, powerful vector-drawing application for Mac OS X. DrawIt is unique in that it presents the user with a simple and clean interface, yet packs an impressive assortment of useful, professional features. In version 3.10, the interface has been further simplified and powerful features have been added.

DrawIt 3.10 has become a lot faster than its predecessor when working on a large canvas or when having a large number of layers. Memory usage has gone down significantly in some cases even consuming less than a tenth compared to its predecessor.

Often requested in DrawIt was support for multi-stop gradients. DrawIt 3.10 finally delivers this feature and also adds a gradient stroke effect to the mix. One of the strengths of DrawIt has always been its ability to add multiple effects of the same kind to a single layer and with the improved gradient filters this is even easier.

New in DrawIt 3.10:

  • Adds flexible multi-stop gradient and gradient stroke effects
  • Significant performance increase
  • Updated UI

Minimum Requirements: Mac OS X Version 10.6 or higher

DrawIt 3.10 is available for free as a full-featured demo for 30 days. A single user license is 29.00 Euros ($40.00 USD). Registered 3.x customers may upgrade for free.

Golden Records Converts Vinyl/Tapes to CD/WAV/MP3

PR: Golden Records is software that helps you to convert your vinyl LP records, tapes or cassettes onto CD or to wav or MP3 files on Mac OS X. It is designed specifically with records and cassettes in mind and has been developed to make the conversion process as easy and intuitive as possible. Just install the software and follow the step-by-step wizard.

Golden Records Analog to MP3/CD Converter

Convert vinyl records and cassette tapes to digital audio

Golden Records is software that helps you to convert your vinyl LP records, analog audio tapes or cassettes to CD or to wav or MP3 files using your computer.

  • Protect your rare vinyl LP albums or cassette tapes
  • Step-by-step wizard guides you through the process
  • Audio restoration tools to remove clicks and hiss
  • Save to MP3 or burn directly to CD in pure digital

After the tracks have been converted you can burn them straight to CD with Golden Records' own CD Burner, edit your favorite tracks with WavePad Audio Editing Software or make your own audio mix with MixPad Audio Mixing Software.

Features

  • Easy to use wizard takes you through the conversion process.
  • Restoration tools automatically clean up damaged audio.
  • Remove hiss, clicks and pops from old tapes or scratched records.
  • Automatically detects silence to split audio into tracks.
  • Built in CD burner to record CDs after the cassette, LP ripper or vinyl to CD wizard runs.
  • Encodes into MP3 or wave file formats.
  • Normalizes the volume of the recordings when converting to CD.
  • Applies dc offset correction when converting analog to MP3.
  • Phono RIAA eq can be applied in the software so no preamplifier is required. Connect a record player directly to the computer.
  • Can convert 78 RPM records playing on a 45 RPM player

Recommended Hardware

  • USB Turntables
  • Audio Devices and Cables
  • How Golden Records Connects
  • For a cassette deck connect the deck to the audio line input of your computer. You probably have a lead with your cassette deck but if not they are available at local electronics stores.

For a record player, If your turntable has an external or built-in preamplifier connect its output to the line input of the computer. If you do not have a preamplifier connect to the microphone input instead and check the phono RIAA eq option. Alternatively use a USB turntable which connects directly to a USB port.

System Requirements

  • Windows 2000/XP/2003/Vista/2008/7
  • For earlier Windows versions (98, ME) click here
  • Works on Mac OS X 10.2 and above
  • About 600 MB free hard drive space
  • CD burner drive if you want to burn the audio to CD
  • Record player (for converting from LP)
  • Cassette deck (for converting from cassette tapes) Recommended Hardware

System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.2 or later.

Platform Support: PPC/Intel

$52 Shareware (30% discount through October 15, 2009)

MacSpeech Dictate Gains Snow Leopard Compatibility

PR: MacSpeech, Inc. has announced the release of MacSpeech Dictate 1.5.5, an update to the premier speech recognition solution on the Macintosh.

The MacSpeech Dictate 1.5.5 update addresses several minor functional and cosmetic issues when used with Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard. All MacSpeech Dictate products, including MacSpeech Dictate Legal, MacSpeech Dictate Medical, MacSpeech Dictate International and MacSpeech Dictate localized in German, French and Italian can update to version 1.5.5 today. MacSpeech Dictate 1.5.5 adds a contextual menu for the Available Commands window, providing options to Edit, Execute, and Copy Description to Clipboard, and is also a maintenance release that fixes other reported issues.

MacSpeech DictateNew in version 1.5.5:

Additions:

  • Context menu for Available Commands window: Edit, Execute, and Copy Description to Clipboard.
  • Message to crash emails about the email not going to Technical Support directly.

Changes:

  • Font in Available Commands Window to Helvetica Oblique to remedy minimal font installations.
  • Address Books with more than 900 (approx.) entries will have the Email Commands generation turned off to avoid resource issues.
  • Selection Commands now show under Status window in the Recognized Text area.

Fixed:

  • Menu mapping for apps bundled with Snow Leopard updated for the new versions
  • Commands with different context from Leopard to Snow Leopard
  • Issues with documents crashing while Caching or Closing
  • Versioning of Commands sets
  • Crash when pasting text into documents that have been cached
  • Empty dialog when exporting "nothing" from the Vocabulary Editor
  • Some Engine words not displaying properly in Training dialog
  • Retain cursor location in document after Cache Document is used
  • License key not always copied to proper location after License Key Validation
  • Crash when highlighting and moving text in a cached area
  • Turned off Spoken Alerts except for VoiceOver users
  • Crashing when users edited or navigated with mouse in some situations (not perfected just better)
  • Better handling of upper level Excel documents. Working within cells still requires use of Purge Cache while navigating

System Requirements: Intel-based Mac with Mac OS X 10.5.6 (Leopard) through Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard). Internet connection required for product registration. MacSpeech-certified noise-canceling microphone (included with new purchase).

The MacSpeech Dictate 1.5.5 update is available free of charge to registered MacSpeech Dictate 1.5 customers using the "Check for Updates" feature. Detailed information on all of the changes and enhancements can be found at:

http://www.macspeech.com/releasenotes/

MacSpeech Dictate is the only desktop speech recognition solution for the Macintosh. MacSpeech Dictate provides unprecedented speech recognition accuracy with minimal training and works with existing Mac applications. MacSpeech Dictate delivers a true Mac user experience, and conforms to behaviors already familiar to Macintosh fans worldwide. Beyond dictation, MacSpeech Dictate lets people perform basic navigation of their Mac and control it with their voice to launch applications, open new windows, execute menu commands, etc.

MacSpeech DictateSystem Requirements: MacSpeech Dictate requires Intel-based Macintosh hardware and requires Mac OS X 10.5.6 Leopard through Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

New MacSpeech Dictate solutions, with a choice of headsets, are available today starting at US$199. Registered customers of MacSpeech Dictate are eligible to purchase MacSpeech Dictate 1.5 at special upgrade price of US$54.95. People interested in an upgrade should note that MacSpeech Dictate 1.5 does not run on Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. Anyone who registered MacSpeech Dictate on or after April 1, 2009 is eligible to receive a free upgrade directly from MacSpeech, Inc.

MacSpeech Dictate Legal, MacSpeech Dictate Medical, MacSpeech Dictate International and an assortment of headset and microphone upgrades certified for use with MacSpeech Dictate are also available directly from MacSpeech, Inc.

MacSpeech Dictate is currently available at http://www.macspeech.com/ in the U.S., at http://www.macspeech.co.uk in the U.K., and in other countries through International resellers and distributors.

The Best Free Mac Software

Free and open-source software is good for you and good for the world. This is the best free Mac software that we know of.

Mozilla Firefox

The premier free, open-source browser. Tabs, popup blocking, themes, and extensions. Considered by many to be the world's best browser.

Miro

Beautiful interface. Plays any video type (much more than QuickTime). Subscribe to video RSS, download, and watch all in one. Torrent support. Search and download from YouTube and others.

Adium

Connect to multiple IM accounts simultaneously in a single app, including: AOL IM, MSN, and Jabber. Beautiful, themable interface.

Quicksilver

Quicksilver lets you start applications (and do just about everything) with a few quick taps of your fingers. Warning: start using Quicksilver and you won't be able to imagine using a Mac without it.

Mozilla Thunderbird

Powerful spam filtering, solid interface, and all the features you need.

The Unarchiver

Uncompress RAR, 7zip, tar, and bz2 files on your Mac. Many new Mac users will be puzzled the first time they download a RAR file. Do them a favor and download UnRarX for them!

Handbrake

DVD ripper and MPEG-4 / H.264 encoding. Very simple to use.

Vienna

Very nice, native RSS client.

RSSOwl

Solid cross-platform RSS client.

Cabos

A simple, easy to use file sharing program. Gnutella network.

SolarSeek

Soulseek file sharing for Mac, in a simple, solid client.

Transmission

Very nice torrent downloader.

Q Emulator

Run Windows programs on your Intel Mac at near native speed. Works on G4 / G5 Macs too, but much slower.

Juice

Solid podcasting client.

VLC

Plays more video files than most players: Quicktime, AVI, DIVX, OGG, and more. Pretty good interface.

MPlayer

The interface and buttons are not as nice or as Mac-like in feel, but it may play even more video files than VLC.

Perian

A plugin that allows QuickTime to play additional video formats. (Included in Democracy Player.)

iPodDisk

Copy music off your iPod in the finder, like a regular disk drive.

Burn

CD and DVD Burner. Burn any video to a disc that plays in your DVD player!

Vidalia

This TOR frontend keeps you anonymous on the web using military-grade techniques. For use with Firefox see:

Bean

Very fast and easy to use word processor. Live word count, autosaving, more.

OpenOffice

OpenOffice is a full-featured, office suite compatible with Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Friends don't let friends pay for Microsoft Office.

AbiWord

A word processor. Leaner and quicker than OpenOffice. Compatible with Microsoft Word documents and OpenDocument Format.

KisMac

The best wireless scanner for Mac. Find wireless access when you're on the go.

Audacity

Simple sound recording tool.

Seashore

Based on Gimp, but doesn't require X11.

Formulate Pro

An easy way to fill-out (or sign) PDFs that Preview can't edit.

Xee

Fast image viewer and image browser.

Gimp.app

Photo editing application that rivals Photoshop in features (requires X11).

Inkscape

Vector graphics application (requires X11).

Scribus

Desktop publishing. Complicated install, but a nice app.

Cyberduck

Very good all-around ftp program.

OneButton FTP

Simple, fast FTP, with a focus on "advanced queuing".

Fugu

Not as polished as Cyberduck (and only for SFTP) but has a side by side interface showing your files and the remote files.

Smultron

Text/html editor. Integrates with Cyberduck for editing websites.

Nvu

Visual tool for making websites (WYSIWYG html editor), comparable to Dreamweaver.

Colloquy

Great IRC client.

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