Mac News Review

Apple Retains Lead in Customer Satisfaction, iMac Screen Problem Resolved, 64 GB for Mac Pro, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2010.02.12

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

All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted.

News & Opinion

Apple Updates

Products & Services

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Apple Continues to Lead in Customer Satisfaction

PR: Apple continues to lead Dell and HP in customer satisfaction with phone-based technical support, but HP made marked improvements since 2008, according to the latest study conducted by Vocal Laboratories Inc. (Vocalabs). In 1,157 telephone interviews immediately following a support call in 2009, 64% of Apple customers were Very Satisfied with the experience, as compared to 45% of Dell customers and 47% of HP customers.

customer satisfactionCompared with 2008, HP customers in 2009 found it easier to reach an agent, experienced fewer problems with the automated portion of the call, and felt like they were made to go through fewer irrelevant or repetitive steps. These changes led to a 9 percentage point year over year improvement in customer satisfaction with the agent at HP, and a whopping 17 percentage point improvement in customer satisfaction with the automated portion of the call. HP nearly tied Apple in this metric, with 39% of HP customers reporting they were Very Satisfied with the automated portion of the call, compared to 42% of Apple customers.

Rising customer satisfaction at HP demonstrates the connection between the service customers receive and their overall satisfaction with the company, said Peter Leppik, CEO of Vocalabs. When things go wrong, customers need to be confident that they will receive effective, friendly, and prompt assistance. With complex consumer electronics, this is as much a part of the product as the design and packaging.

The National Customer Service Survey (NCSS) compares the customer service quality for different companies in the same industry, using survey data and call statistics from the companies' customers. Current research covers computer technical support and mobile phone customer service. The NCSS is underwritten and conducted by Vocalabs independently of any of the companies covered. Results discussed here are based on 1,859 interviews conducted in 2008 and 2009.

Methodology

Consumers participated in the survey by calling an alternate toll-free phone number to reach a company's technical support. Immediately after the end of the call, selected consumers are called by a Vocalabs interviewer and complete a survey about the support experience.

Vocal Laboratories Inc. (Vocalabs) helps leading brands improve customer service by collecting timely, actionable feedback about customer service quality. We interview customers immediately after a customer service call, retail store visit or IVR interaction while the memory of the experience is still fresh. Using our powerful hosted survey and reporting platform, clients discover and share insights to improve business decisions. Vocalabs award-winning services include live-agent surveys and usability testing for speech and IVR systems.

Apple Says 27" iMac Screen Problems 'Resolved'

The Telegraph reports that Apple says a firmware update for its 27" iMac should resolve issues such as screen flicker. An unspecified number of users have reported problems with the screen of their 27" iMacs, including cracked and flickering displays as well as screens that appeared to have a yellow tint.

Apple Paying Out 15% on Defective 27" iMacs

Gizmodo reports:

"Still think that widespread iMac problems don't exist? After we reported Apple giving UK customers 15% refund bonuses with 27-inch iMac returns, we've heard from quite a few readers that Apple is doing the same thing in the US . . . So on a $2000 machine, we're talking about a $300 apology straight from Apple customer support...."

Apple Updates

Apple 2009 Aluminum Keyboard Firmware Update 1.0

Apple's 2009 Aluminum Keyboard Firmware Update 1.0 improves battery performance of the 2009 Aluminum Apple Wireless Keyboard when used in combination with other Bluetooth devices (example. Magic Mouse, Bluetooth headsets).

Your 2009 Aluminum Apple Wireless Keyboard must be connected or paired to perform this update.

System Requirements

  • Mac OS X 10.5.8
  • Mac OS X 10.6.2

Platform: PPC/Intel

For detailed information on this update, please see About the 2009 Aluminum Keyboard Firmware Update 1.0.

Products & Services

OWC 64 GB Memory Upgrade for 8-core Nehalem Mac Pro

PR: Other World Computing (OWC), has announced its new OWC 64 GB 1066 MHz DDR3 ECC Memory Upgrade Kit for Mac Pro 8-Core Pro models continues OWC's three year streak of offering up to double the original factory memory for Apple Mac Pro computers by offering kits of up to 64 GB at savings up to 68% over same sized factory options for all Mac Pro Dual-Core, Quad-Core, and 8-Core models.

More Options & Savings Up To 68% Versus Factory

OWC's Memory Upgrade Kits for Mac Pro 8-Core models offer more configuration options and thousands of dollars in savings over factory memory upgrades. The two 8 GB module-based OWC upgrades - 48 GB (6 x 8 GB) and 64 GB (8 x 8 GB) - offer a maximum performance configuration for Mac Pro 8-Core machines not available from the factory. Mac Pro 8-Core owners can also choose OWC's 32 GB Memory Kit priced at only $1,197.99 - a savings of $2,502 compared to the $3700 32 GB factory upgrade. In addition to the savings offered by OWC Upgrades, Mac Pro users also retain their original factory memory modules that can either be set aside for future use or be sent to OWC for a cash back trade-in of up to $25 per Apple factory 2 GB memory module.

Pricing for 2009 Mac Pro 8-Core 2.26 GHz, 2.66 GHz, and 2.93 GHz models:

  • OWC 24 GB DDR3 ECC Memory Kit -$914.99 (6 x 4 GB matched memory modules) Not available as factory memory upgrade option.
  • OWC 32 GB DDR3 ECC Memory Kit - $1197.99 (8 x 4 GB matched memory modules) $2502 (68%) lower cost than factory 32 GB upgrade.
  • OWC 48 GB DDR3 ECC Memory Kit - $2679.99 (6 x 8 GB matched memory modules) Not available as factory memory upgrade option. $1020 lower cost than 32 GB factory max upgrade.
  • OWC 64 GB DDR3 ECC Memory Kit - $3559.99 (8 x 8 GB matched memory modules) Not available as factory memory upgrade option. $140 lower cost than 32 GB factory max upgrade.

Pricing for 2009 Quad-Core 2.66 GHz, 2.93 GHz, and 3.33 GHz models:

  • OWC 12 GB DDR3 ECC Memory Kit -$459.99 (3 x 4 GB matched memory modules) $890 (66%) lower cost than factory 12 GB upgrade.
  • OWC 16 GB DDR3 ECC Memory Kit -$612.99 (4 x 4 GB matched memory modules) $1237 (67%) lower cost than factory 12 GB upgrade.
  • OWC 24 GB DDR3 ECC Memory Kit -$1399.99 (3 x 8 GB matched memory modules) Not available as factory memory upgrade option. $450 lower cost than 16 GB factory max upgrade.
  • OWC 32 GB DDR3 ECC Memory Kit - $1799.99 (4 x 8 GB matched memory modules) Not available as factory memory upgrade option. $50 lower cost than 16 GB factory max upgrade.

To assist all Mac Pro owners in selecting the correct memory upgrade for any 2006-2009 Dual-Core, Quad-Core, or 8-Core Mac Pro model, OWC has created a simple to use guide that shows what RAM type and speed each Mac Pro model utilizes. To use the guide to select and order OWC Memory Upgrade Kits for Mac Pro models, visit https://eshop.macsales.com/shop/memory/Mac-Pro-Memory

64 GB Certified for Flawless Use with Mac Pro 8-Core

By maintaining its own lab of nearly every Apple Mac model ever made, including all of the latest Mac Pro 2009 models, OWC's MaxRAM certification program can confirm use of memory configurations that exceed Apple's officially supported RAM maximums. This program also confirms OWC Memory Upgrade Kits for the Mac Pro meet, if not surpass, AppleDesign Specifications, including specific required thermal EEPROM, board design, chip components; and are fully RoHS and JEDEC compliant. Also, like all fully tested OWC memory upgrades, these new OWC Upgrade Kits for Mac Pro Quad-Core models are engineered with premium quality components for cool, flawless operation and are backed with a Money Back Guarantee and OWC's Lifetime Advance Replacement Warranty.

For more information on various Mac machines that have been confirmed to be able to utilize up to four times the amount of RAM than factory offered, visit https://eshop.macsales.com/memory/maxram

Free 'Do-It-Yourself' Video for Easy Installation

OWC Memory Upgrade Kits for 2006-2009 Mac Pro models are fully supported with free online instructional videos to make user installation an easy 15-minute procedure.

The full OWC Memory line, as well as a compatibility guide for the correct upgrades for each specific Apple model, can be found online .

Gesture Cube Concept: No Need to Touch - Just Give It a Wave!

Gesture CubePR: Gesture Cube uses 3D spatial movement tracking to help transform navigating a device into a magical intuitive experience. The underlying GestIC technology detects your hand's approach and movements - your favorite apps and media all at just wave your hand to access music, web, your family and friends.

You don't even need to touch the surface.

The Gesture Cube is not just technology for tech's sake. It is thoughtfully designed and deeply rooted in a genuine understanding of consumers' expectations and needs. The developers have explored the possibilities of 3D technology to craft a product experience that is so intuitive it's almost magical. Using natural gestures to control the electronics helps to draw them closer to our natural behaviour, making things easier and more fun. The result is an intelligent product concept with unlimited possibilities for enhancing daily life with effortless interaction. The Gesture Cube's design is simple yet so beautiful it doubles as a sculptural icon in your living space.

Technology

Gesture CubeGestIC electric field sensing technology makes 3D spatial hand or finger movement tracking possible. GestIC detects movements and distances in 3D space and provides the technical backbone for Gesture Cube's 3D user interface. GestIC enables touchfree three-dimensional gesture control on 2D screens from mobile phones, tablet PCs, picture frames and MP3 players all the way to 3D devices like Gesture Cube. Let Gesture Cube inspire you!

Let Gesture Cube inspire you.

Gesture Cube is a joint development by three partnering companies: IDENT Technology AG delivered the underlying touch-free GestIC technology used in Gesture Cube. User interface studio ZINOSIGN designed Gesture Cube's user interface and website. Design company LUNAR Europe created the overall product design.

Currently, the Gesture Cube is still at the concept stage, but we hope it will become more than that soon.

Gesture CubeAs specialists from different fields, the collaborators pooled their expertise to create Gesture Cube, an advanced concept for the next level of smart digital devices.

IDENT Technology AG is a worldwide technology leader in intelligent and intuitive user interface solutions, providing intellectual property and semiconductor solutions for the consumer electronics industry. We create electric field sensing systems that enable intuitive and fun use, minimized power consumption, enhanced user-interface and industrial design, and new 3D gesture control functionality.

IDENT Technology AG delivers and licenses solutions for the consumer electronics and mobile device industry. Our technology is protected worldwide by over 30 patents and 210 patent applications.

ZINOSIGN is a top-performing agency for user interface design and usability. The solutions we create are based on our many years of experience working in an interdisciplinary team for a wide range of clients.

ZINOSIGN specializes in the interactive and conceptual design of technical products and software systems. Because interface design includes many aspects of human behavior, a successful design makes a product enjoyable to use. A successful interface uses positive experiences to trigger positive emotions.

LUNAR is a global design firm with LUNAR Europe in Munich, Germany as its European headquarters that helps clients to innovate and create experiences that are relevant to their customers. Our cross-disciplinary team of designers, engineers, researchers and strategists, uses a variety of techniques to craft relationships between people and products. Marrying empathy for people with a deep understanding of how products should behave, we create remarkable experiences that people love.

At LUNAR, interaction design moves beyond the mouse and keyboard to touch screens and interfaces of all kinds, delivering solutions that make a difference.

Software

RealPlayer SP for Mac

PR: RealPlayer SP has been very well-received by PC users worldwide. But no matter how happy we've been with the results, we've had one thing nagging at us - the lack of Mac support. We've been all over the country in the last six months talking about RealPlayer SP, and the one universal complaint was that it was PC-only. That all changes today as we're thrilled to announce RealPlayer SP for Mac. Mac users have been able to download videos to their machines for a few years with RealPlayer 11, but with SP, you're now able to take those videos and put them on your favorite phones, iPods, and even your Xbox.

reeaalmacscreenshot.png

The Mac version works slightly differently than the PC software, as there are certain requirements/allowances for Mac OS X. For instance, the infamous download this button you may be familiar with in the PC version is not in the Mac version. Instead, whenever you watch a video, the download/converter window of RPSP will open and ask if you d like to save that video to your Mac and convert it to your device. This is similar to how RP 11 currently works. The only difference is that now you ll have the option to move the videos elsewhere.

This should be great news for people who like the functionality of RPSP but have their iPhones synched with a Mac (like I do)! Now all of those hilarious web videos, awesome sports videos or videos of your kids can now go wherever you go. We d love for you to give the Mac version a try, give us feedback and spread the word. We ll be monitoring our Facebook page closely, looking for any feedback as well as suggestions for future versions.

MacSpeech Releases MacSpeech Scribe

PR: MacSpeech, Inc. today announced the release of MacSpeech Scribe, the world's most advanced personal transcription solution for the Macintosh.

Now for the first time, a Macintosh user running Snow Leopard can transcribe their recorded voice into written text with up to 99% accuracy, in a single button click. MacSpeech Scribe is available immediately, in English only, exclusively for Macworld Conference and Expo 2010 attendees and currently registered MacSpeech Dictate 1.5 customers for $99, regularly suggested retail priced at $149.

scribe.jpg

"MacSpeech Scribe significantly advances the MacSpeech quest to create the best speech recognition and, now, transcription solutions on the Macintosh," explained Andrew Taylor, founder and CEO of MacSpeech, Inc. "One person, their profile, an audio file, one button click. It just doesn't get any easier than that."

MacSpeech Scribe automatically creates an individual speech profile, in one of 13 different English dialects, from an initial recorded sample of the person's voice. A single MacSpeech Scribe license can create and use up to six individual voice profiles, each compatible with all accepted audio file formats. MacSpeech Scribe accepts audio files in .wav, .aif, ..aiff, .m4v, mp4, or .m4a formats.

When composing a letter or other document by voice, users can include spoken punctuation, and MacSpeech Scribe will automatically include the punctuation marks in the output text.

Audio file quality directly impacts the accuracy achieved and as such MacSpeech Scribe customers are encouraged to minimize background sound and produce spoken-word audio files using a high-quality recording device such as one of the certified recording devices listed at http://www.macspeech.com/recording/

System requirements: MacSpeech Scribe requires Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard.

MacSpeech Scribe is available immediately, in English only, exclusively for Macworld Conference and Expo 2010 attendees and currently registered MacSpeech Dictate 1.5 customers for $99, and available immediate at $149 directly from the MacSpeech, Inc. website.

MacSpeech Scribe is currently only available in English in the US, the UK, Canada, and Australia.

Apple Releases Aperture 3 - Free 30 Day Trial

PR: Apple this week introduced Aperture 3, the next major release of its powerful photo editing and management software, with over 200 new features including Faces, Places and Brushes. Building on the innovative Faces and Places features introduced in iPhoto '09, Aperture 3 makes it even easier and faster to organize large photo libraries. Aperture 3 introduces new tools to refine your photos including Brushes for painting image adjustments onto parts of your photo, and Adjustment Presets for applying professional photo effects with just one click. Stunning new slideshows let you share your work by weaving together photos, audio, text and HD video.

app31.jpg

"Millions of people love using iPhoto to organize, edit and share their digital photos," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. "Aperture 3 is designed for both professionals who edit and manage massive libraries of photos and iPhoto users who want to take their photos further with easy-to-use tools such as Brushes and Adjustment Presets."

"Aperture 3 gets it right," said National Geographic photographer, Jim Richardson. "The image editing tools are exactly what I have been asking for, they're so easy to use and give me a level of control that I never even thought possible."

"I chose Aperture because it was the most powerful archiving application around, but it's now an unbelievable imaging tool as well," said Bill Frakes, Sports Illustrated staff photographer. "I am beyond impressed with the massive changes made in Aperture 3."

Aperture 3 allows you to organize large photo libraries with even more flexibility using Projects and the new Faces and Places. Faces uses face detection and recognition to find and organize your photos by the people in them. You can view faces across your entire photo library or view just the faces that appear in selected projects. In a new view that speeds up the organization process, Aperture 3 displays faces that have been detected but haven't yet been named. Places lets you explore your photos based on where they were taken, and like in iPhoto, Places automatically reverse geocodes GPS data into user-friendly locations. In Aperture 3, you can assign locations by dragging-and-dropping photos onto a map or by using location information from GPS enabled cameras, tracking devices or your iPhone photos.

app32.jpg

The new Brushes feature allows you to add professional touches to your photos by simply painting effects onto the image. Aperture 3 includes 15 Quick Brushes that perform the most popular tasks like Dodge, Burn, Polarize and Blur, without the complexity of layers or masks. Brushes can automatically detect edges in your images to let you apply or remove effects exactly where you want them. Aperture 3 includes dozens of Adjustment Presets that apply a specific style or look to the entire image with just a click. You can create your own custom presets or explore the techniques of other photographers by importing theirs.

Aperture 3 makes it easy to share your work with stunning slideshows that weave together photos, audio, text and HD video. You can select one of six AppleDesigned themes or choose your own transitions, background, borders and titles, and even add your own soundtrack. You can export your slideshows directly to iTunes to take with you on your iPhone or iPod touch. You can also share photographs as beautiful prints, create custom-designed hardcover books and publish to online photo sharing sites like Facebook and Flickr, right from Aperture 3.

app33.jpg

Aperture 3 is available through the Apple Store, Apple's retail stores, and Apple Authorized Resellers for a suggested retail price of $199, and existing Aperture users can upgrade for a suggested retail price of $99. A downloadable 30-day trial version is available at apple.com/aperture/trial. Aperture 3 runs as a 64-bit application on Mac OS X Snow Leopard on Macs with Intel Core 2 Duo processors. Full system requirements, online tutorials, and more information on Aperture 3 can be found online.

Try Aperture 3 For Free For 30 Days

To get a fully functional copy of Aperture 3 for your Mac, enter your name and email address in the box to the right. You'll receive an email with a link to download Aperture 3 and a serial number for activation. The free trial will expire 30 days after you open the application for the first time.

Aperture 3 requires a Mac with an Intel processor. See Aperture 3 system requirements for details.

Onix International Launches EncryptStick for Mac

PR: Onix International Inc. have announced the launch of EncryptStick™ Version 4.1 with dual support for Macintosh and Windows operating systems. EncryptStick is available on a preloaded USB flash drive or as standalone software that can be downloaded onto any USB flash drive, acting as a highly-secure data vault to store and secure sensitive information.

The most advanced portable security application available on the market today, EncryptStick acts as a digital safe to secure all the sensitive documents, cherished photos, irreplaceable videos and passwords stored on your computer. EncryptStick lets users create an unlimited number of invisible, encrypted vaults (folders containing sensitive files) on the flash drive itself, on any computer or removable device such as servers or portable hard-drives, as well as writeable media such as CDs, DVDs or SD memory cards.

"While PC owners have traditionally been the most common targets for hackers and thieves, Macintosh security experts recently warned that exploits in the OS X operating system suggest that Macs are now just as vulnerable to malware and viruses and simple computer theft," said Tyrone Phipps, CEO of Onix International. "We're very pleased to deliver EncryptStick Version 4.1 to provide Mac owners with the same level of comprehensive security offered to our PC customers."

EncryptStick is unique among USB data security offerings in that it uses 512-bit polymorphic encryption, a variable algorithm resistant to all known cryptanalytic attacks, which to this date remains unbroken with over 4 million downloads.

Once the user plugs the EncryptStick-enabled flash drive into their computer's USB port, the software will run automatically and prompt them for their personal password. Once entered, the user can open existing vaults, create new vaults and easily encrypt or decrypt any file by right-clicking and selecting from a drop down menu, or simply dragging and dropping the files into the vault folders. EncryptStick also enables "encryption on the fly" with the ability to edit documents within vaults while the files are encrypted. All of this takes place without ever leaving a footprint on the host PC or Mac.

In the event of a lost flash drive, the EncryptStick application renders the files impenetrable and provides an immediate Key Recovery function from the www.encrypt-stick.com website. With your original files saved on another computer and an encrypted copy on your EncryptStick USB flash drive, you can leave your laptop at work and simply plug the EncryptStick-enabled flash drive into your home computer to gain access to all your remote files and passwords.

The preloaded 4 GB EncryptStick Flash Drive can be ordered today for $119.99 at www.onixinternational.com with support for Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Mac OS X version 10.4 and higher.

A downloadable version of the software is available for $39.99 that can be loaded onto any serial numbered USB flash drive to provide the same features and functionality.

Maxon Introduces Free New Version of Benchmarking Suite, CineBench Release 11.5

PR: Maxon, a leading developer of professional 3D modeling, painting, animation and rendering solutions, today announced the immediate availability of CineBench Release 11.5, an advanced hardware testing suite that assesses a computer's performance capabilities. CineBench is based on the same powerful technology as Maxon's award-winning animation software Cinema 4D, which is used extensively by studios and production houses worldwide for 3D content creation. The new version of CineBench includes the ability to more accurately test the industry's latest hardware, including systems with up to 64 processor threads and the testing environment better reflects the expectations of today's production demands. A more streamlined interface makes testing systems and reading results incredibly straightforward.

First introduced in 2000, CineBench quickly became the essential benchmarking tool for hardware manufacturers, leading publications and system administrators. Unlike abstract benchmarks, which only test specific functions of CPUs or GPUs, CineBench offers a tangible benchmark incorporating a user's common tasks within Cinema 4D to measure the performance of a system's processor and graphics card under real-world circumstances. During the testing procedure, all relevant data is measured and resulting values among different operating systems are compared, making CineBench a useful tool for hardware evaluation, as a marketing tool for hardware vendors or simply as a means to compare hardware among colleagues or friends.

CineBench Release 11.5 is immediately available free of charge via download from the Maxon website and can be utilized on Windows and Macintosh operating systems.

As a leading innovator of high performance workstations and rendering systems, BOXX Technologies relies on CineBench benchmarking analysis to clearly demonstrate how our solutions will perform in real-world scenarios, said Shoaib Mohammad, Director of Marketing and Business Development at BOXX. CineBench is a tremendous asset, providing reliable and consistent data, ensuring us that our hardware is performing at its peak, and giving our customers confidence that when they choose BOXX they are making the most informed decision possible.

The CineBench test scenario uses all of a system's processing power to render a photorealistic 3D scene, "No Keyframes" the viral animation by AixSponza. This scene makes use of various algorithms to stress all available processor cores.

The OpenGL graphics card testing procedure uses a complex 3D scene depicting a car chase with which the performance of your graphics card in OpenGL mode is measured. During the benchmark tests the graphics card is evaluated by way of displaying an intricate scene that includes complex geometry, high-resolution textures, and a variety of effects to evaluate the performance across a variety of real-world scenarios.

System Requirements

To evaluate CPU performance CineBench requires a minimum 1024 MB of RAM and a supported processor type running at a minimum clock speed of 1 GHz. CineBench will test the graphics card to ensure it supports the necessary features to display the test scene correctly.

CineBench is immediately available free-of-charge via download from the Maxon website, maxon.net, and can be utilized on Windows and Macintosh operating systems.

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