Mac News Review

Apple Tops in Reliability and Customer Service, OWC's Speedy SSD, SanDisk SSD Shipping, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2010.02.26

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

Troubleshooting

Reviews

Products & Services

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Shipping Times Back to Normal for 27" iMacs

MacNN reports:

"The official shipping times for 27-inch iMacs have shrunk back to 5 to 7 business days, according to Apple's online store. The timing is once again consistent with that of 21.5-inch systems, and appears to apply regardless of the processor chosen. During recent months, shipping times have stretched out to as long as three weeks."

Apple Again No. 1 in Rescuecom Reliability Survey

Fortune's Philip Elmer-DeWitt reports that for the third year in a row, Apple finished first in an annual survey of computer reliability conducted by Rescuecom, a national tech support company based in Syracuse, NY.

However, although Apple had the highest score in Rescuecom's 2010 report, its lead over its nearest competitor - Taiwan's Asus - shrank from more than 200 points in 2008 to just 60 points this year, with Rescuecom president Josh Kaplan commenting that despite Apple still being out in front, Asus "won the spotlight" with impressive 190.7% improvement, year over year, while Dell slipped due to negative growth and poor reliability scores

PC Reliability: Apple, Asus, Lenovo

Tom's Hardware's Marcus Yam reports:

"According to Rescuecom's Computer Reliability Report, which it claims to give factual, unbiased data to determine the reliability of today's personal computers, the top five manufacturers with the best overall computer reliability performances for 2010 are:

  • Apple (365)
  • Asus (305)
  • IBM/Lenovo (305)
  • Toshiba (199)
  • HP/Compaq (149)"

BusinessWeek Survey Reveals Standouts in Customer Service

BusinessWeek reports that it may have been a tough year for nearly every industry, but in their fourth annual customer service awards a few particularly retail, hospitality and electronics really shone.

The survey's Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal podium finishers were:

  • Gold: L.L. Bean Online/Catalog Retailer
  • Silver: USAA Insurance
  • Bronze Apple Corporation - Computers & Electronics

Apple Ranks Third in Pan-Industry Customer Service Survey

Macworld's Dan Moren reports that Apple seems to be doing a pretty good job of serving its customers as needed, nabbing the number three spot overall in BusinessWeek's annual customer service survey and first among computer makers. Iconic Maine-based retailer L.L. Bean and insurance and banking company USAA were the only forms to rank higher than Apple.

Moren says that in its bronze medal podium finish, Apple earned A+ ratings for qualify of staff and efficiency of service, increasing its overall score by almost ten percent over its 2009 rating with 66% of those surveyed affirming they would definitely recommend Apple products and 58% saying they would definitely repurchase the brand.

Charles Wolf: Don't Forget the Mac

BusinessWeek's Arik Hesseldahl reports:

"With all the attention around Apple focused on the growth of the iPhone and handicapping the potential fortunes of the forthcoming iPad, Charles Wolf, analyst at Needham and Co. in New York reminds us that Apple's Mac business is not only still strong, but getting stronger.

"In his latest 'Wolf Bytes' newsletter, Wolf says that Mac sales are growing at twice the rate of the PC market in general, and that as the market for PC owners grows faster than the business market, the Mac is continues to be a key driver of Apple's continued growth....

"Here's another interesting stat to show the growth of Mac sales in context: Apple sold more Macs in the December quarter of 2009 than it did in all of 2003...."

Cautions When Washing Your Dirty Keyboard in the Dishwasher

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler says:

"There have been a number of reports in recent months claiming an easy way to clean your keyboard is to run it through the dishwasher. A few MacFixIt readers have asked questions about these reports, and have wondered if they should try it. Though we cannot recommend this method of cleaning for everyone, it may be a last resort for some keyboards. Even so, there are a few cautions you should be aware of in doing this...."

Editor's note: Hey, d'ya think? I've heard from folks who have actually done this successfully, but my own intuition is that the drier electronics can be kept, the better, and it's not something I would personally attempt with a keyboard I didn't consider expendable, no matter how grubby it was. Better grubby and functioning than clean and defunct. I have, however, had excellent results blowing accumulated swarf out of keyboard housings using compressed air, and just using a damp cloth for aesthetic cleaning (see The Compressed Air Keyboard Repair). cm

What Steve Jobs and Bill Gates Really Think of Each Other

The Telegraph reports that Bill Gates commented that, unlike the iPhone, Apple's iPad was not a device he wished he'd made, while Steve Jobs has, in the past, been highly critical of Microsoft. The newspaper goes on to cite some of the best quotes from both men referring to the other or their companies respectively.

One of Bill's nicer comments comes from early on in 1984 when he observed that: "To create a new standard, it takes something that's not just a little bit different; it takes something that's really new, and really captures people's imagination. And the Macintosh - of all the machines I've seen - is the only one that meets that standard."

On the other hand, in 2009 Gates' wife, Melinda, let slip in an interview that "There are very [few] things that are on the banned list in our household, but iPods and iPhones are two things we don't get for our kids."

Steve Jobs has likewise at times been pretty hard on on Microsoft. One choice quote that The Guardian unfortunately chose not to cite in its entirety was a 1996 gem (scroll down) that I've always thought summed up the overarching problem with Microsoft products rather well:

"The only problem with Microsoft is they just have no taste, they have absolutely no taste, and what that means is - I don't mean that in a small way I mean that in a big way. In the sense that they they don't think of original ideas and they don't bring much culture into their product ehm and you say why is that important - well you know proportionally spaced fonts come from type setting and beautiful books, that's where one gets the idea - if it weren't for the Mac they would never have that in their products and ehm so I guess I am saddened, not by Microsoft's success - I have no problem with their success, they've earned their success for the most part. I have a problem with the fact that they just make really third rate products."

Jobs added a year later that "I wish [Bill Gates] the best, I really do. I just think he and Microsoft are a bit narrow. He'd be a broader guy if he had dropped acid once or gone off to an ashram when he was younger."

Also waxing philosophical in 1994, Steve observed that "If you say, well, how do you feel about Bill Gates getting rich off some of the ideas that we had ... well, you know, the goal is not to be the richest man in the cemetery. It's not my goal anyway, although he did allow that "I think Bill Gates is a good guy. We're not best friends, but we talk maybe once a month. I think Bill and I have very different value systems. I like Bill very much, and I certainly admire his accomplishments, but the companies we built were very different from each other."

A fair, albeit obvious observation, I think.

The Cult of Apple

The Montreal Gazette's Juan Rodriguez says:

"I've long accepted the fact that the digital lifestyle is omnipresent, will only accelerate, and that Apple is indispensable to navigating such digitalia....

"There's always been a kind of smug chauvinism about Apple fans who recognized that, even though the Mac had a tiny slice of the market, it was the superior product (to this day): easy-to-use in a human way, design as the facilitator of function, simplicity as the purveyor of complexity. Indeed, that market sliver - surviving the juggernaut of business-oriented Windows-operated PCs was seen as testament to the precious few with the foresight - the enlightenment - to Think Different & and appreciate the genius behind Apple....

"Steve Jobs is the Svengali-like digital shaman, and we're hooked on his aura. One columnist joked that Americans more keenly anticipated Steve's announcement of the brand-new iPad than they did Barack Obama's State of the Union the night before...."

Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting a Slow or Crashy Mac

Maintain says:

"Today we decided to make a guide to help you solve the two most common complaints people have: 'my computer is slow' or 'my computer/this application keeps on crashing'. There's a good chance this could save you a trip to the Genius Bar so give it a try before you call Apple!"

How Do I Defragment and Optimize Files on My Hard Drive?

Mac Support's Michel Munger says:

"The way a Mac's hard drive works has its own complexity and there are plenty of ways to maintain it. One thing is for sure: several months of moving files around, updating your operating system and other software will fragment files and slow the computer down.

"Here are suggested solutions...."

Editor's note: Since OS X 10.3, Macs have been able to automatically defragment growing files as they are modified. Apple says, "there is little benefit to defragmenting." Unless your drive is nearly full, file fragmentation is not usually an issue. dk

Reviews

Other World Computing's Serious Solid State Drive

Bare Feats' rob-ART Morgan says:

"You have either heard about or experienced the 'gotchas' associated with the Solid State Drives (SSDs) sold in 2008 and 2009. Many users complained of slowdown in write speeds after several months of use. Anandtech published their well read and often referenced 'SSD Anthology' discussing this phenomenon. Others experienced data corruption or hard failures. At one point, Intel stopped production of two models of SSD to address the issue.

"Other World Computing committed themselves to the task of bringing to market an SSD that overcomes those issues. It's called the Mercury Extreme Enterprise Class SSD and is based on the SandForce SF-1500 SSD Processor. What does that bring to the party?"

Editor's note: OWC's drive took top honors in each of Bare Feats' benchmark tests. dk

Products & Services

New Matias Keyboard Changes the Way You Use Your iPhone

Matias USB 2.0 Keyboard + Smartphone StandPR: Matias has released a keyboard that gives you a whole new way to use your smartphone.

With a stand built into the keyboard, your iPhone or iPod touch can now be part of your desktop work environment. It's the most comfortable way to use your smartphone apps, when you're at your desk.

"This new setup is so convenient," said Edgar Matias, CEO of Matias. "I have all these little apps on my iPod that I use all day. With the new keyboard, they're in easy reach, all the time."

iPhone apps at your fingertipsThe thousands of apps available make your smartphone even more useful than before...

  • Do quick calculations
  • Check your stocks
  • Twitter
  • Facebook updates
  • Control iTunes
  • Custom Keypad & Trackpad apps to control your Mac

"It also lets me keep my personal stuff on my iPod touch totally separate from the work I'm doing on my PC," said Matias. "I can keep tabs on things with my iPod, leaving my Mac screen clutter free, and dedicated to what I'm working on."

Matias is the #3 keyboard brand (after Logitech and Microsoft) and especially popular in the Mac market. The product was inspired by an article outlining a similar concept by Jesus Diaz, on the website Gizmodo.

Matias USB 2.0 Keyboard + Smartphone Stand"It's a little different from Jesus Diaz's idea. We tried several locations for positioning the smartphone stand. Ultimately, we found that having it just above the arrow keys was the most comfortable, especially when you just want to use the keyboard," Matias added.

Features:

The non-slip silicone pad cradles your smartphone in place, and fits all smartphones - iPhone, Blackberry, Android, Palm, and others.

  • Hi-Speed USB 2.0 dock. Perfect for flash drives and other USB 2.0 devices, the dock lets you transfer files, photos, and music at hi-speed, right from your keyboard. Up to 40x faster than regular USB!
  • 2-port USB hub. In addition to the dock, the keyboard also has a conventional 2-port USB hub located on the back, for plugging in your mouse or trackball, and another USB device.
  • Quiet Dome Switches. High-quality rubber dome keyswitches provide a quiet tactile feel, yet offer enough resistance to hold the weight of your hands and reduce long-term fatigue.
  • € £ © are easy to find. For Mac users, hard to remember symbols are printed right on the keys. Simply hold down Option for the bottom-right characters, or Shift-Option for the top-right characters.

System Requirements:

  • Computer with 1 or 2 USB ports.
  • This keyboard connects to your computer via two USB plugs - but the 2nd plug is optional.
  • The (optional) 2nd plug is for the USB 2.0 Dock.

Dimensions:

  • 18.7" x 6.8" x 1.4" (47.5 x 17.3 x 3.5 cm)
  • Cable length: 5' (152 cm)
  • Weight: 1.65 lb. (750 g)

At $49.95 suggested retail price, the USB 2.0 Keyboard + Smartphone Stand is available now at www.matias.ca and will be coming soon to Matias Authorized Resellers.

Available now for Mac; coming soon for Windows.

SanDisk G3 Solid State Drive Ships to Retailers

Sandisk G3 Solid State DrivePR: SanDisk Corporation has announced that it has begun shipping its SanDisk G3 Solid State Drives (SSD) to retailers in North America and Europe. The flash memory-based SanDisk G3 SSD offers a compelling alternative to a 7200 RPM hard drive for many customers - including do-it-yourself enthusiasts, IT managers, or anyone seeking increased durability and performance with high reliability.

"Our rugged drive enables a superior customer experience by delivering extended endurance and fast performance in a resilient SSD design," said Eric Bone, vice president, retail product marketing, SanDisk. "SanDisk believes in an uncompromising development approach which insists that an SSD's long term reliability and durability are just as important as its overall speed. We're leveraging our long history of flash memory and retail expertise to bring the SanDisk G3 SSD to market."

Long-term reliability: The 120 gigabyte (GB)* SanDisk G3 SSD can endure up to 80 terabytes (TB)* of data written to it over its lifetimeiv. The solid state drive uses a smart flash management system called ExtremeFFS™ technology that has the potential to accelerate random write performance and thus extend the endurance of SanDisk G3 SSDs inside computers that use operating systems such as Microsoft Windows XP and Windows 7

Rugged durability: SanDisk G3 SSD uses no moving parts, enabling improved durability that helps resist drive damage. Backed by rigorous shock and vibration testing procedures and a 10-year limited warrantyii, the drive offers some of the best-in-class quality assurance that could only come from a trusted leader in flash memory.

Fast performance: SanDisk G3 SSD opens files up to twice as fast as a 7200 RPM hard drivei, so users can enjoy faster bootups and improved system responsiveness. SanDisk G3 SSD has sequential performance of up to 220 megabytes per second (MB/sec) read speediii and up to 120 MB/sec write speediii.

Lower maintenance costs: By replacing standard HDDs with SanDisk G3 SSDs, users can defer laptop purchase costs and reduce maintenance requests associated with disk drive failure.

SanDisk G3 SSD is Microsoft Windows 7 certified and is compatible with Mac OS X Snow Leopard as well as Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Linux. The drive also supports the newest Windows 7 TRIM feature, which contributes to a substantial gain in the SanDisk G3 SSD's performance by allowing the drive to continuously manage its resources and retain optimized performance throughout its lifespan.

SanDisk G3 SSD is available now at sandisk.com via the US and UK ecommerce sites in 60 GB and 120 GB capacities with prices of $229.99 and $399.99 respectively. The drive will be available at retailers in North America and Europe soon, with exact pricing to be set by retailers.

* 1 megabyte (MB) = 1 million bytes. 1 gigabyte (GB) = 1 billion bytes. 1 terabyte (TB) = 1 trillion bytes.

  1. Based on SanDisk internal testing using Microsoft Windows Performance Tool Kit. Performance varies depending upon OS and application. Platform: Intel Core 2 Processor E8400, 2 GB DDR2; OS: Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate; HDD: Seagate HDD 7200.4 RPM 250 GB; SSD: G3 RC304 60 GB
  2. 10 Year warranty in regions not recognizing limited warranty.
  3. Based on SanDisk internal testing; performance may be lower depending upon host device.
  4. Based on 120 GB G3 SSD; Approximations based on LDE (Long-term Data Endurance) - an industry metric, introduced by SanDisk, that quantifies how much data can be written to a SSD in its lifespan expressed in terabytes written (TBW). Data is written using typical PC transfer size, written at a constant rate over the life of the SSD, and data is retained for at least 1 year upon LDE exhaustion. Based on SanDisk internal measurements, a typical client PC user writes 4 GB/day.
  5. ExtremeFFS is a SanDisk page-based flash management algorithm, optimized for popular operating systems, has the potential to greatly increase SSD random write speeds and efficiency thus accelerating the performance and extending the endurance of SSDs inside PCs.

Belkin Introduces SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Products

SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ExpressCardPR: Belkin announces a new line of SuperSpeed USB 3.0 products, including a PCIe Add-In Card, ExpressCard, and Premium A-B and Micro-B Cables. SuperSpeed USB 3.0 products provide a high rate of transfer speed that allows you to move content-rich media back and forth between different devices.

USB 3.0 is specified to transfer at five gigabits per second - 10 times faster than USB 2.0*. In our tests we observed speeds of up to 180 megabits per second, or three times faster than USB 2.0, which is a great improvement for activities such as large file transfers. USB 3.0 products are backward-compatible with USB 2.0 devices and will interoperate with them as well.

With SuperSpeed USB 3.0 products, you can do the following faster than before:

  • Download HD movies and other multimedia
  • Transfer high-bandwidth media and files back and forth
  • Charge and sync devices, like a digital camera or smartphone

An In-Stat 2008 report shows more than 3 billion USB-enabled devices currently being shipped.

According to The NPD Group data from February 2010, Belkin is the current market leader in USB connectivity**.

Availability

  • April 2010 in the US.
  • May 2010 in Canada.

SuperSpeed USB 3.0 PCIe Add-In CardSuperSpeed USB 3.0 PCIe Add-In Card (F4U023) - $79.99

  • Connects up to 127 USB devices (through cascading additional hubs)
  • Supports plug and play and hot-swap functionality

SuperSpeed USB 3.0 ExpressCard (F4U024) - $79.99

  • Fully compliant with ExpressCard specification 1.0 and Universal Serial Bus 3.0 specification Revision 1.0
  • Supports plug and play and hot-swap functionality
  • Connects up to 127 USB devices (through cascading additional hubs)

SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Premium A-B CableSuperSpeed USB 3.0 Premium A-B Cable, 4 ft. (F3U158-04) - $39.99; 8 ft. (F3U158-08) - $49.99

SuperSpeed USB 3.0 Premium Micro-B Cable, 4 ft. (F3U165-04) - $39.99; 8 ft. (F3U165-08) - $49.99

RJ Theodore, General Manager of Core Products at Belkin says: "Belkin has always led in adopting new technology and bringing products that support these new technologies to consumers. USB 3.0 is positioned to have a major impact in connectivity for computers, media players, and other devices. Similar to when USB 2.0 was first introduced, we plan on leading the integration of USB 3.0 with a line of thoughtful solutions that are easy for our customers to understand and use."

*This is the theoretical performance of the USB 3.0 standard as specified by the USB-IF. Real-world throughputs will vary.

**USB connectivity consists of the following NPD categories: USB Hubs and USB Cables.

Air3G 1 Watt 11n 3G Broadband Router

PR: The Air3G is the latest AirLive AP router that follows the principles of maximization. It starts with earth-shattering 1 Watt output power that enables the AP to cover up to area of 1 km in diameter. It is equipped with both USB and WAN port to share 3G, ADSL, and cable modem Internet connections. Hotspot authentication function is provided for those who want to resell the Internet bandwidth. The passive PoE port allows installation of the Air3G far away from power source.

Air3G 1 Watt 11n 3G Broadband RouterThe Air3G is the first Wireless-N 3G router to provide 1 Watt output power. That means it can cover up to 9 times the area comparing with normal powered solutions. The Wireless-b/g/n radio can run at up to 150 Mbps speed which is 3X faster than 11g solutions.

Ultimate 3G and Broadband Sharing

The Air3G comes with USB 2.0 port for sharing the Internet connection of 3G USB dongles. In addition, a WAN port is provided for sharing ADSL or Cable Modem connection. The remarkable WAN and 3G auto backup function will auto switch between WAN or 3G when one of the connections failed. This ensures uninterrupted Internet service for your home or office. Wireless Multimode functions can turn your Air3G instantly into AP, Wireless Client, Wireless Bridge, or Wireless Repeater.

Hotspot Authentication

The Air3G can turn into a simple Hotspot Gateway instantly. The Hotspot Authentication controls the Internet Access by username and password. It is perfect for Hotel, coffee shops, restaurant, or just to sell Internet Service to your neighbors. The high-power Wireless-b/g/n radio means you can provide service to much greater area and faster speed.

AirLogic System Architecture

Air3G software system is built upon the new AirLogic software architecture. The under laying system core is our legendary wireless engine that offers superior performance and rich set of functions. It features firmware recovery system, multi-operation wireless mode, Virtual AP function, bandwidth control, and over 100 other features that make AirLive wireless products famous in the industry. The AirLogic Web Interface integrates all these powerful functions into an extremely easy to use multi-language interface that can change language instantly at any page.

Internet Service on Transportation

With growing need to provide Internet service on public transportation, the Air3G is a perfect device for such purpose. With the optional CAR-100DC car adapter, you can easily provide Internet service on the car, bus, or train.

Green AP Function

AirLive CAR-100DCAirLive is conscious of our responsibility as passengers of Planet Earth, which is why the Air3G is equipped with Green AP function to conserve the energy and enable users to set the schedule of the wireless service.

AirLive maximizes the value of Air3G in terms of wireless coverage, functions, and design. It is designed from ground up to be the perfect Internet sharing device.

The CAR-100DC is a car adapter with DC Jack. It is an individual accessory for Air3G. With application of it, you can easily share Internet service with passengers on the car, bus, or other public transportation without any restriction of electrical power.

Features:

  • 30 dBm 3G/Broadband Router with USB 2.0, PoE, and HotSpot functions
  • Up to 9 times more wireless coverage than normal powered AP/Routers
  • Work with 3G/3.5G/UMTS/EVDO/ HSDPA USB Dongle
  • Hotspot authentication function
  • Multiple SSID and Bandwidth Control
  • Green AP power saving function
  • 1 x USB 2.0 Port
  • WAN port for ADSL/Cable Modem support
  • 3G Router, AP, Client, Bridge, Repeater modes

Notes:

*Power limited to 20 dBm in EU and 23 dBm in the U.S.

*This product does not come with 3G modem. It works with 3G USB dongle. Check the 3G USB Support List for compatibility.

The Air3G is expected to ship later this month. Pricing has not yet been announced.

New iMac Security Kit

PR: The new Sound Protect Security Kit secures your iMac computer, video game consoles, and flat screen TVs with audio sensors that work just like the devices protecting retail merchandise.

The battery powered sensors deliver an 85 db alert when removed or the cable cut. The Sound Protect is a perfect compliment to existing hardware security products or as a stand alone security device. Popular applications include securing your Xbox, Playstation, iMac, computers, monitors, and flat screen TVs.

Sensors are applied with a removable double-side adhesive. To use simply activate the main sensor and secure under a desk ledge or table bottom. Secure the other Sound Protect sensor to the component. Choose to place the sensor within easy view to discourage theft or out of view to disguise. Retail $19.95

For a YouTube video on this product: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6x0EW3YSRbA

Software

TapeDeck: Remarkably Retro Audio Recording

AppStorm's David Appleyard reports:

"Having recently rounded up a range of audio recording apps, we wanted to spend some time taking an in-depth look at another contender: TapeDeck. This particular piece of software stands out on account of the retro concept, interface, and functionality.

"Rather than fit in with the standard OS X look-and-feel, TapeDeck takes a step back in time to the day of the humble audio cassette. It's a great idea, and is executed very well in this quirky application. Whether you regularly record audio on your Mac, or just take an interest in application design, this review will be particularly fascinating."

Pasteboard Recorder 2: Free Clipboard Recorder

PR: Pasteboard Recorder is an application to record a content of your pasteboard of Mac OS X automatically. It can record content of a paste board to 120 entries. Contents to record are not limited to a text. you can use it for various uses. And this software supports save, load. This is tweet and tumbling oriented software.

Features:

  • Pasteboard Recorder 2 Current Pasteboard - You can see the pasteboard status.
  • Hot Keys - You can swap pasteboard statuses dynamically with HotKeys.
  • Text Search - FullText Search supported. You can find the past pasteboard statuses.
  • ToolBar - This software supports Tool Bar Mechanism.
  • Growl Notification - Pasteboard Recorder is supported to Growl Notification. It reminds you the pasteboard statuses and operation statuses.
  • Image Link - You can show the image from URL which has an image. We planned it to aim to work together with Gyazo application which presented by Toshiyuki Masui.
  • Friendly Icon - Simple Icons to avoid avant-garde.
  • A lot of changes - File-double-clicked, Drug into dock, Context Menu, and so on.

New in version 2.01:

  • New Version Release.
  • Supports Growl Notification.

System requirements: Mac OS X 10.5 or later.

System Support: PPC/Intel

Free

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