Mac News Review

Back to Windows from Mac?, Kindle for Mac, Commodore 64 Comeback, Desktop Sales Growth, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2010.03.26

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

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

From Windows to Mac: Can You Go Back?

The Houston Chronicle's Dwight Silverman is a relatively recent switcher to the Mac platform, having bought a black MacBook in early 2007, until then having been a "diehard Windows guy" hard pressed to say "Macintosh" without sneering

He reports that his original plan in 2007 was to stay on the Mac for portable computing but keep using his home desktop Windows PC - but the more he used Mac OS X, the more he liked it. A tester 24" iMac in late 2007 got him hooked, subsequently buying a 13" MacBook Pro and handing off the black MacBook to his wife, who he says loves it. Silverman adds that a primary reason he switched to Macs was their ability to run Windows natively following Apple's shift to Intel CPUs in 2006.

Silverman says he loves Macs for their elegant hardware and operating system, but he never had any intention of giving up Windows and spent up to 40% of his time on Macs working in Windows - and with the advent Windows 7, he misses some aspects of it when working in the Mac OS.

Consequently, Silverman is conducting an experiment, continuing to work on a book project on the iMac for a week or two but planning to switch back to his hotrod home-built Windows PC for at least 60 days after that to see how things go, getting to know Windows 7 better in day-to-day service, determining how much he'll miss the Mac OS (if at all), and checking out some Windows-only hardware components as well as forthcoming Office 2010. He also concedes that losing the option of using the Mac OS is a concern.

At the end of 60 days, he'll decide whether to keep going with Windows 7 as his main operating system or go back to the iMac.

Opera Sees Dramatic Increase in Downloads in Europe Thanks to Microsoft's Ballot Page

Tech Radar's Patrick Goss reports that Opera's Web browser has seen a massive increase in downloads following the introduction of the browser ballot "choice screen" into Microsoft Windows that was rolled out in Europe through Windows Update to IE users there. The ballot screen gave people the option of choosing a different default browser, listing Opera alongside the likes of IE, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox.

Windows browser ballot screen
The EU mandated that Microsoft offer other browsers to Windows users.

Based on three days worth of data, the ballot screen has handed Opera a massive boost across Europe - with the UK seeing an 85% increase in downloads for Opera 10.5. Poland (328%), Spain (215%), and Italy (202%) topped the Opera adopter list.

Free Kindle for Mac App Available

PR: Amazon.com, Inc. has announced Kindle for Mac, a free application that lets readers around the world enjoy Kindle books on their Mac computers. The US Kindle Store currently offers over 450,000 books, including New Releases and 102 of 111 New York Times Bestsellers, and is the only place to find some of today's most popular books in digital format. Kindle books can now be read on the Kindle, Kindle DX, iPhone, iPod touch, BlackBerry, PC and Mac, and soon the iPad. Customers in over 100 countries can download the Kindle for Mac application for free today.

Kindle for Mac features Amazon's Whispersync technology that automatically saves and synchronizes bookmarks and last page read across devices. Whether customers are reading Kindle books on a Kindle, Kindle DX, or one of the free Kindle applications, they can always have their reading with them and never lose their place. With Kindle for Mac, a customer can read some on their Mac, read some on their Kindle, and always pick up where they left off.

With Kindle for Mac, readers can take advantage of the following features:

  • Purchase, download, and read hundreds of thousands of books available in the Kindle Store
  • Access their library of previously purchased Kindle books stored on Amazon's servers for free
  • Choose from 10 different font sizes and adjust words per line
  • Add and automatically synchronize bookmarks and last page read
  • View notes and highlights marked on Kindle, Kindle DX, and Kindle for iPhone
  • Read books in full color including children's books, cookbooks, travel books and textbooks
  • Several features will be added to the Kindle for Mac app in the near future, including full text search and the ability to create and edit notes and highlights.
  • Kindle for Mac is available to customers around the world as a free download.

Getting Files Off Old Macs

MacFixIt Mailbag's Joe Aimonetti says:

"A MacFixIt reader writes in to ask us how to retrieve his files from an old 400 MHz PowerPC Mac tower - a machine that did not include any disc-burning capabilities. He also states that an external CD/DVD burner did not perform well enough to complete backups of the data. Here are some options to try out so you can get your data safely backed up...."

Aimonetti suggests connecting the two Macs using FireWire Target Disk Mode.

Desktop Computer Sales Soared in February

AFP reports:

"Sales of desktop computers soared 30 percent in February defying talk that such machines are being made obsolete by laptops, smartphones and other mobile devices....

"Sales of personal computers running on Microsoft Window's operating systems and of Macintosh desktop machines made by Apple both grew in the month, according to NPD."

iMac to Account for 25% of Desktop Growth in 2010

Macworld UK's Zoe Smith reports that Apple's iMac will lead the way this year, accounting for 25% of total desktop computer growth in the worldwide market, according to a report by Caris and Company analyst Robert Cihra.

The news comes at a time when most of the growth in the PC market is down to netbooks and laptops. Apple reported that 63% of all the Macs sold last quarter were laptops. Caris and Company expect the Mac to grow 1.6 times faster than the industry average during 2010.

Editor's note: This is a strange metric, but it makes for an attention grabbing headline. Cihra expects to overall PC market to grow by 15-20% this year, mostly due to netbooks and notebooks. He anticipates "low single-digit" growth in the desktop market. Assuming that figure is 4%, iMacs would then account for just 1% of the worldwide desktop market. I'm sure that's not what Mr. Cihra means, but it seems to be what he's saying. Color me confused. dk

Apple Preps 27" Cinema Display, 12-core Mac Pro

AppleInsider's Kasper Jade reports:

"Apple is putting the finishing touches on a pair of new products targeted at its professional customers, namely a larger version of its LED Cinema Display and a major update to its Mac Pro workstations, AppleInsider has been told.

"Targeted for release by June is the Cupertino-based company's second LED-backlit Cinema Display, measuring 27-inch diagonal and largely resembling a slightly magnified version of its existing 24-inch model, which was introduced to much fanfare back in October of 2008."

Commodore 64 Coming Back as a 64-bit Computer-in-a-Keyboard

PR: There's nothing quite like it on the market. At just 17.5" wide and 2" tall, the new Commodore 64 is designed to take up far less room - and use far less energy - than any other desktop computer. It can even run Mac OS X (officially unsupported).

New Commodore 64
The new 64-bit Core 2 Commodore 64 should ship in June.

Small, simple, beautiful, the resurrected Commodore 64 has a sleek, anodized aluminum case and a clean, contemporary surface. It's small, elegant, and unassuming.

Featuring extensive plug and play capabilities and peripherals connectivity - the new C64 includes four USB 2.0 ports so you can connect any additional components, including keyboard, mouse, iPod, iPhone, digital camera, DV camcorder, external hard drive, printer, and any other peripherals you use. Commodore also lets you connect up to two displays, including your TV, with the dual link DVI port and RGB Port. On the side is the ultrafast, DVD Drive for playing DVDs and CDs - or burning your own.

Packed with Power

Engineered to fit a lot of computer into a little space. the C64 is powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo or Core Quad processor, with advanced graphics and fast DDR memory.

There's plenty of storage space - up to 2 Terabytes - for just about anything. And it comes with any OS you choose (Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard is not supported and must be customer installed).

Technical Specifications:

  • CPU Support: Intel Core 2 Duo, Intel Core 2 Quad @ 1333 MHz FSB LGA775 up to 95W. Intel® Pentium® D Processors with Hyper-Threading Technology, Intel® Celeron® D processor, support from 1.3 GHz ~ 3.4 GHz 1333 MHz System Bus. Supporting 9x, 5x & 6x series processors with EM64T.
  • Motherboard: Intel G31 Express Chipset
  • Core Logic Memory: 2xDDR2 SDRAM sockets, populated up to 4 GB. Supports PC2-5300 667 MHz & PC2- 6400 800 MHz.
  • HDD Support: Integrated Serial ATA controller facilitates high-speed transfers at up to 3 Gbps for each of the four ports. Allows easier hard drive upgrades and expansion for new SATA optical drives. 2x SATA2 ports.
  • Video & Graphics: Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 3100. 3D enhancements enable greater flexibility and scalability and improved realism with support for Microsoft DirectX 9.0c Shader Model 2.0, OpenGL 1.4. Intel Graphics also support the highest levels of the Windows 7 Aero experience. Stunning media, incredible visuals and new 3D capabilities. For business users, Intel validates the chipset, processor, graphics and software stack to provide a well-tested platform with support for Microsoft Windows 7,Vista, Windows XP, Linux (top distributions) and OS/2 (SciTech). Dynamic Video Memory Technology (DVMT) 3.0 supports up to 289 MB of Shared Video Memory; system memory is allocated where it is needed dynamically. Supports built-in Dual/Multi-Monitor windows displays using LCD monitor & DVI external display.
  • Networking: 1 Gigabit (GbE) Fast Ethernet, using Realtek RTL 8168B/8111C.
  • Removable HDD: Optional removable 2.5" hard disk drive.
  • Audio: Realtek AL888 High Definition Audio enables premium Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound and six channels of enhanced sound quality and delivers advanced features such as multiple audio streams and jack re-tasking. Audio is fully compliant with Azalia 1.0 spec. Two built-in 2.5 watt stereo speakers with three audio jacks for Audio Out, Line-in, and Microphone.
  • I/O Ports: 4 USB 2.0 Ports with transfer rate up to 480 Mbps, 2 RS232 Serial Ports, 1 Parallel Port supporting SPP/EPP/ECP, 1 PS/2 mouse port, 1 POS or PS/2 keyboard port, 1 dual link DVI.
  • Touchpad: Built-in Synaptic two-button touchpad with vertical and horizontal scroll function.
  • Optical Drive: One slimline type Blu-ray or Optical Drive, CD-RW/DVD, or DVD±RW.
  • Expansion Slots
    • One Mini PCI
    • One Mini PCI-e
  • System BIOS: AMI Flash BIOS supports ACPI, API, DMI, Plug & Play, and security password. Supports booting from HDD, PXE, LAN, CD-ROM, and ANY USB device.
  • EFI: Extensible Firmware Interface is a revolutionary standard to manage the booting process of next-generation PCs in a modular, interactive way. EFI standards allow the user to boot multiple operating systems, with a fully graphical interface and instant recognition of the peripherals. This feature requires the purchase and installation of a small, internally mounted module, supplied by others, that connects to an available motherboard USB header socket.
  • Keyboard: Full-Size Enhanced Windows keyboard, detachable keytop matrix.

Operating Systems

You can (at least theoretically) use the following operating systems with the new Commodore 64:

  • Ubuntu OS
  • Windows OS
  • Amiga EMU (emulator only)
  • Mac OS X (obviously unsupported by Apple)
  • AROS OS
  • Linux OS

A few more notes on OS support:

Ubuntu

Ubuntu is an operating system built by a worldwide team of expert developers. It contains all the applications you need: a web browser, office suite, media apps, instant messaging and much more. Ubuntu is a free open-source alternative to Windows and Office.

  • Ubuntu will always be free of charge, along with its regular enterprise releases and security updates
  • Ubuntu comes with full commercial support from Canonical and hundreds of companies from across the world
  • Ubuntu provides the best translations and accessibility features that the free software community has to offer
  • Ubuntu core applications are all free and open source. We want you to use free and open source software, improve it and pass it on.

OS X

Commodore USA do not sell, install, support, promote, repair, or deal in any way with products made by Apple, including any hardware or software, but suggest that if you would like to purchase any Apple products, simple pack up your cash, checks, or credit cards and head over to one of the Apple locations or visit them online.

Initially, four Commodore 64 models will be offered:

  • Commodore Barebones SILVER
  • Commodore Barebones BLACK
  • Commodore BASIC Silver
  • Commodore BASIC Black

The Commodore 64 online store will officially launch June 1st. 2010.

Editor's note: I have fond memories of my VIC-20 and Commodore 64, the first computers I owned. (An Apple system was way out of my price range back then.) In the early days of personal computing, most models had the CPU, memory, I/O ports, and keyboard in a single unit. Add a monitor, and you're good to go. The new Commodore 64 and the often delayed Asus Eee Keyboard could resurrect that concept for the 21st century and become great portables. Very tempting, especially if everything works well with Snow Leopard. dk

Belkin Router Refresh Leads with Gigabit Modem

PC Advisor's Andrew Harrison reports that a refresh of routers and modem-routers from Belkin includes a flagship model that is one of the first to combine an ADSL modem with gigabit ethernet and 802.11n wireless in the same box.

The Belkin Play Max features one WAN and four LAN ethernet ports specified to gigabit (1000 Mb/s) operation. For wireless LAN connection, there's 802.11n, promising a 300 Mb/s connection, on 5 GHz as well as traditional 2.4 GHz frequency bands.

And unlike the standard version of the Play modem, the Play Max offers two USB ports to allow the connection of external storage or printers. The new Belkin routers are also available without ADSL. These models should be available in May.

1394 Trade Association Issues Comprehensive FireWire Reference Tutorial

PR: The 1394 Trade Association has developed a comprehensive new reference tutorial to assist engineers in evaluating the IEEE 1394 (FireWire) standard, understanding how it works, and maximizing FireWire performance in their application.

It has been developed specifically for engineers who have no previous experience with FireWire, based on the expertise developed by the dedicated designers and engineers in the Trade Association.

The tutorial provides a comprehensive technical background for engineers unfamiliar with FireWire, enabling them to build a complete understanding of how the standard operates, and to evaluate FireWire's benefits for their application. The 77-page document includes diagrams, descriptions and illustrations.

Dedicated sections discuss FireWire's use in a wide range of systems and applications including robotics control; automated optical inspection; medical imaging; computer and storage; audio and professional audio; security and surveillance; communications systems; set-top boxes; digital camcorders; commercial aviation; military and automotive. The tutorial also describes the most popular products including Host Adapters (Host Controllers); PC motherboards; cables; repeaters; IIDC cameras; external hard disks; digital cameras, camcorders and others.

Dimitrios Staikos of Codemost, Inc. authored the reference tutorial, with contributions from veteran 1394 Trade Association members Eric Anderson of Apple, Don Harwood of PLX Technology, Les Baxter of Baxter Enterprises and Burke Henehan, Henehan Consulting. Member companies such as Point Grey Research and IOI Technology Corp. contributed the photos used to explain applications.

"Our new Reference Tutorial presents a complete picture of what FireWire is, how it works, what designers need to evaluate its benefits for their application, and the steps they need to follow to optimize FireWire for their product," said Max Bassler, 1394 Trade Association chairman. "It has been developed specifically for engineers who have no previous experience with FireWire, based on the expertise developed by the dedicated designers and engineers in the Trade Association."

Complements New FireWire Design Guide

The new reference tutorial complements the 1394 Trade Association's newly-issued Design Guide, which details the guidelines for implementing FireWire ports on high level complex devices such as personal computers, automobiles and on simple devices such consumer electronics products. The Design Guide and Reference Tutorial documents provide a comprehensive set of instructions, tools and guidelines for using 1394 in any product or application, Bassler said.

To download the new Reference Tutorial and also the Design Guide, visit the 1394 Trade Association home page at www.1394ta.org.

The 1394 Trade Association is a worldwide organization dedicated to the advancement of the IEEE 1394 (FireWire) standard. The 1394TA recently celebrated its 15th year of promoting 1394 and its one billionth 1394 port shipped. FireWire is used today in mass-market computer, entertainment, and professional products, and in a wide range of specialty applications such as music, defense, aerospace, industrial, and robotics products.

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