Mac News Review

Free iPod touch Back-to-school Deal, New Uses for Your Old Computer, Five Best Mice, and More

This Week's Apple and Desktop Mac News

Compiled by Charles Moore and edited by Dan Knight - 2010.05.28

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

News & Opinion

Products & Services

Software

Desktop Mac Deals

News & Opinion

Apple Repeats iPod touch Back-to-school Deal

Computerworld's Gregg Keizer reports:

"For the third year in a row, Apple today kicked off its annual back-to-school promotion, offering rebates of up to $199 toward the purchase of an iPod touch or another iPod when bought with a qualifying Mac."

4 Free Apps to Give Your Mac a Little Boost

MacFixIt's Joe Aimonetti says:

"...though your new Mac is great out of the box, here are a few free applications you might want to add right away."

General Maintenance Recommendations

MacFixIt's Topher Kessler says:

"There are many times when in our articles we will mention 'General Maintenance' as part of a troubleshooting routine. If you are having software issues, either with third-party applications or the Mac OS itself, giving the computer a virtual scrub-down will many times help, or at least give you a cleaner slate upon which to do more in-depth troubleshooting."

Find a New Use for Your Old Computer

Computerworld's John Brandon says:

"Turn your old machines into media servers, e-mail stations and nodes to help with scientific research . . . They're collecting dust in storage rooms and taking up extra space in your garage or office. They can't handle today's applications, peripherals or operating systems. Yes, older computers are a nuisance, like the brother-in-law who sleeps on your sofa for a few months.

"But tossing tech gear into the garbage is not exactly environmentally correct. Better ideas: Recycle older computers or retrofit them to serve a new purpose....

"Here are my top 10 choices for what to do with a PC that's past its peak as a primary computing device but still has plenty of life in it for other uses. I've tried all of these, and I let you know how well these projects have worked for me."

  1. Use an old laptop as a guitar amp
  2. Use an old notebook as an email terminal
  3. Use your old PC + iTunes as a home media server
  4. Turn any older PC into a gaming rig
  5. Turn an old system into a Folding@Home system
  6. Use any netbook for home security
  7. Install Jolicloud to liven up an old netbook
  8. Use an older desktop for Netflix movie night
  9. Try home automation using Hawking Tech gear
  10. Run a dedicated gaming server on any old desktop

5 Apps to Enhance Your Trackpad and Magic Mouse

App Storm's David Appleyard says:

"Your MacBook trackpad (and the back of that fancy new Magic Mouse) is a blank slate. It's simple, sleek, and elegant. The functionality of these pieces of gadgetry has gradually improved with every release, and recent 'multi touch' capability has made your trackpad far more useful.

"In fact, the ability to track multiple touches and swipes isn't really used to it's full potential by default. There are plenty of applications and utilities that can really boost the functionality of your trackpad and Magic Mouse - today we'll be looking at a selection!"

The Mouse Ain't Dead Yet: 5 of the Best Mice Reviewed

Engadget's Joanna Stern says:

"For over thirty years the computer mouse ruled over the kingdom of computer navigation. Despite losing its rubber ball and cord over the years, the peripheral lived a long, full life of being pushed across desks and tables getting the cursor where it needed to go. It died today from neglect as it was abandoned en masse for touchpads and touch-based computers.

"Many tech pundits have already started drafting an obituary of the computer mouse like the one above, but let's be clear: we think the death of the mouse is greatly exaggerated. In fact, we're so convinced the mouse isn't dead that we've been testing some of the best on the market for the last couple of months. Click on below to find out why we think the lowly mouse has more than a few good years left, and which ones out there deserve your attention . . . No matter how you slice it, Windows 7 and Mac OS X are still very much mouse-based operating systems."

Editor's note: I'm a die-hard mouse devotee and touchscreen skeptic/curmudgeon, and I was delighted both by Ms. Stern's staunch defense of the mouse and that her five best mouse picks included two of my own favorites - Logitech's Anywhere Mouse MX, which she says "stole our hearts most consistently", and the hard-wired ultra-precision Razer Imperator gaming mouse ("sure, the Imperator was built for gamers, but it happens to be one of our top picks when it comes to good old fashioned comfort"). Both priced at $80, these mice are not cheapies, but with computer mice you tend to get what you pay for. cm

Apple Says 'No' to iPorn

First Things' Kevin Staley-Joyce says:

"Steve Jobs can, as one commenter said of his 2007 iPhone debut presentation, 'sell ice to an Eskimo.' What's more interesting than what he can sell, though, is what he chooses not to . . . when asked about the possibility of smut on Apple's mobile devices, Jobs replied, 'You know, there's a porn store for Android . . . You can download nothing but porn. You can download porn, your kids can download porn. That's a place we don't want to go, so we're not going to go there.'

"In the same breath, interestingly enough, Jobs let out his belief in 'a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.' . . . [However] Phil Schiller, Apple's vice president of marketing, has said that Apple continues to allow applications authored by the R-rated Playboy and coffee table-unfriendly Sports Illustrated, as they originate from 'more reputable companies.' Perhaps Apple wishes not so much to purge its products of adult-themed material, but to distance themselves from the Internet-dominating sexual profiteers of San Fernando Valley....

"The most significant fact about Jobs' announcement will be, I suspect, his introduction of moral language into the sterile domain of profit-oriented, competition-driven technology...."

Group Applauds Apple's Anti-porn Stance

The Christian Examiner reports:

"There's an application for nearly everything - including news, sports, maps and restaurants - but [Apple CEO Steve] Jobs says the store won't offer porn. Approximately 5,000 sexually explicit applications were removed from the store early this year after the Parents Television Council, the conservative group, urged citizens to complain to Apple. The PTC noted that children often browse the store, looking for games.

"Jobs' stance doesn't mean the iPhone can't be used to find porn. It still comes with a browser to surf the Internet, although it can be disabled with parental controls....

"Additionally, the iTunes store still offers some risqué applications, although the majority of them appear to be gone....

"'The Apple CEO can expect further criticism from fans of pornography; but the PTC applauds Steve Jobs for his bold and courageous stance in favor of promoting decency and protecting children,' the Parents Television Council said....

"[Jobs] wrote e-mailer Matthew Browing in April, 'We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone. Folks who want porn can buy and [sic] Android.' Browing had argued, 'Apple's role isn't moral police.'

"Then, in May, Jobs defended Apple's new iPad from charges that the product does not give consumers enough freedom. The e-mailer, Ryan Tate, had written Jobs saying that 'revolutions are about freedom....'

"Jobs retorted, 'Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom.' ... 'You might care more about porn when you have kids....'"

Ditching Microsoft Word for Grant Writing

ZDNet's David Morgenstern says:

"A recent blog thread reveals that Mac users in the scientific and technical fields are taking a break from Microsoft Word. And the list of excellent Mac writing tools keeps growing - alternatives cited being Apple's Pages, Literature & Latte Ltd.'s Scrivener, Google docs, Nisus Writer Pro, Ross Carter's Pagehand, RedleX's Mellel, Mariner Software's Mariner Write, Bare Bones Software's BBEdit 9.5 and TextWrangler, and Aquamacs 2 - the now Mac-native version of the Emacs text editor."

Microsoft Moving Mac Unit into Business Division

AppleInsider Staff reports:

"As part of its corporate infrastructure shakeup revealed this week, Microsoft will consolidate its Mac Business Unit - the team that produces software for Mac OS X - into the company's Business Division."

Could a Closed Platform Mac Be in Apple's Future?

TUAW's Erica Sadun says that despite griping by disgruntled software developers, the iPhone OS has been a smashing market success, and that the main distinction between the iPhone OS and the Mac OS is the openness of the platforms, with iPhone OS app developers obliged to go through Apple's gatekeeping review process before peddling their wares to the vast audience of iPhone OS device owners, with Apple setting the rules, vetting the quality, and policing the system.

Sadun asks if this motif could be the future of a new Macintosh line - not necessarily dropping traditional OS X for the production and performance oriented, but creating a more controlled and protected "walled-garden" computing environment for folks who just want reliable, safe general computing and Internet capability and couldn't care less about power-user features.

Products & Services

Guardian MAXimus RAID OWC Drops Price on Guardian MAXimus RAID;  Discounts on Prosoft Drive Genius 3

PR: OWC has got hot new prices across the board on NewerTech Guardian MAXimus storage solutions.

The NewerTech Guardian MAXimus RAID-1 FW 800/400+eSATA+USB 2.0 Quad Interface solution is a hardware RAID 1 Redundant Mirror which automatically keeps your data backed up in real time to protect against a hard disk failure. Should a drive ever experience a malfunction, normal data operation continues seamlessly. If the malfunction is a recoverable soft type, the Guardian MAXimus will rebuild the mirror (also without data interruption) automatically. If the disk failure requires a drive to be replaced, once the new drive is installed. the Guardian MAXimus will automatically rebuild the Mirror while you use it.

In addition to the benefits of Hardware RAID 1 Mirroring, these solutions are fully certified for Audio/Video, Backup, Graphics, Music, General Data needs and more.

Other Features:

  • Guardian MAXimus RAIDAvailable in capacities of up to 2.0 TB + 2.0 TB Mirrored
  • LED indicators on the front of the solution indicate the status of the two drives.
  • Automatically rebuilds the RAID in case of error or drive replacement.
  • 2 x FW 800 ports, 1 x FW 400 port, 1 x USB 2.0/1.1 port, & 1 x eSATA Port
  • Sleek, compact Aluminum design
  • 9.0 3 Long x 2.8 3 Wide x 5.8 3 High.
  • Fully bootable
  • eSATA, USB 2.0, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800 cables all included!
  • Prosoft DataBackup III (Mac OS X), Intech SpeedTools (Mac OS 8.6-10.5.x), Carbon Copy Cloner (Mac OS X), and NovaStor NovaBackup (Windows) included
  • guardmax.jpg
  • Fully Mac & PC compatible
  • Industry Leading Three Year Solution Warranty

While that's impressive in its own right, these new prices make it even better.

  • 320 GB + 320 GB Mirror 7200 RPM w/32 MB Buffer, now $209.99 (a $10 drop)
  • 500 GB + 500 GB Mirror 7200 RPM w/32 MB Buffer, now $219.99 (a $10 drop)
  • 750 GB + 750 GB Mirror 7200 RPM w/64 MB Buffer, now $269.99 (a $10 drop)
  • 1.0 TB + 1.0 TB Mirror 7200 RPM w/64 MB Buffer, now $279.99 (a $20 drop)
  • 1.5 TB + 1.5 TB Mirror 7200 RPM w/64 MB Buffer, now $359.99 (a $20 drop)
  • 2.0 TB + 2.0 TB Mirror 7200 RPM w/64 MB Buffer, now $449.99 (a $30 drop)
  • 0 GB Build your own Kit (software bundle & cables included), $139.99

Prosoft Drive Genius 3 Bundle Offer

Purchasing Prosoft Drive Genius 3 along with a NewerTech Guardian MAXimus (or, really, any OWC or NewerTech external storage solution) can save you $60 off the retail price of the program. Special Offer - Only $39.00 on any order with a qualifying OWC or NewerTech External Storage Solution. Special With Enclosure Kit: $45 (55% off retail)

Special Offer - Only $45 with orders that include a qualifying OWC or NewerTech Drive Enclosure Kit(s) including "DIY" bundles.

Drive Genius 3 is also available for separate/standalone purchase for $79.99 (20% off retail)

New Genius 3 Features

  • DrivePulse: Monitors the overall health of your drive, alerting you to possible issues before they become major problems.
  • 64-bit: Runs as a 64-bit application on Mac OS 10.6 or later with a compatible 64-bit processor.
  • Enhanced Defrag: Provides even better defragmentation of your files and even more fragmentation information in a new user interface.
  • RAID Support: Support for hardware RAID and Apple's software RAID.
  • Enhanced Repartition: Add, delete, hide, expand or shrink OS X partitions so you can organize your drive more efficiently.
  • Scan: Realtime bad-block scanning and an extended block verification that stress tests the read/write validity.
  • Email Notifications: E-mail notifications can be sent when long-running tasks complete and you are away from your computer.

Existing Features Returning

  • Repair: Quickly fix corruption and errors to get your damaged drive up and running fast.
  • Sector Editor: Fine tune all aspects of your system with direct, advanced byte viewing and editing of all data on your drives, volumes and files (for expert users only).
  • Information: In-depth report of specifications and space utilization of all drives or OS X volumes.
  • Initialize: Easy, high level OS X formatting to prepare new hard drives for use on your computer.
  • DriveSlim! Free up more space on your hard drive with Duplicate Files Search, Large Files Search, Language Support Removal and Universal Binary slimming.
  • Benchtest: Make sure your hard drive performance is what it should be with comprehensive speed tests and graphical comparisons to other common configurations.
  • Shred: Stop prying eyes with DoD compliant (5220.22 - m) secure erase. Removes all traces of data from free space and deleted data on any drive or OS X volume.
  • Clone: Fast and easy volume or entire drive cloning.
  • Integrity Check: Find problems before they find you with these comprehensive hardware verification tests.

Software

Adobe Flash Player 'Gala' Preview Release

PR: Flash Player preview release, code-named "Gala," introduces support for H.264 video hardware decoding on Mac OS X 10.6.3, the most recent release of Mac OS X Snow Leopard. Gala allows developers to preview Flash Player with hardware acceleration of H.264 video on supported Mac computers equipped with the following GPUs: Nvidia GeForce 9400M, GeForce 320M or GeForce GT 330M. The hardware acceleration functionality in the Gala preview release of Flash Player is expected to be included in an update following the release of Flash Player 10.1.

Approximately 75 percent of online videos viewed worldwide are delivered using Flash technology. The H.264 video codec supported by Flash Player provides excellent quality, but without hardware acceleration, H.264 requires a great deal of CPU processing power to decode. To date, support for hardware accelerated H.264 video playback in Flash Player has only been possible on Windows PCs and x86-based netbooks. Beginning with Gala, Mac users will also benefit from hardware decoding of H.264 video in Flash Player, the number one platform for video on the Web.

Gala Resources

Many video professionals point out that access to hardware video decoding is the single most important factor in overall CPU load when playing video. Mac OS X 10.6.3, which became available on March 29, 2010, is the first Mac OS X release to expose APIs that support H.264 hardware video decoding in the browser. The combination of Nvidia GPUs (GeForce 9400M, GeForce 320M or GeForce GT 330M) with the Gala version of Flash Player enables supported Macs running the current version of OS X to deliver smooth, flicker-free HD video with substantially decreased power consumption. Users will be able to enjoy a much smoother viewing experience when accessing rich, H.264 video content built with the Flash Platform from popular sites like Hulu.com or YouTube.

The Gala preview release is an opportunity for developers to preview this functionality and to test compatibility with existing content on supported Mac computers. We want your feedback to help improve this feature, which is expected to ship following the release of Flash Player 10.1.

In this preview release, you will be able to recognize when hardware decoding is in use when you see a small white square appear in the upper left corner of a video.

The preview release of Flash Player Gala is based on Flash Player 10.1, which will ship the first half of this year and is now available as a release candidate. Learn more about the capabilities of this first runtime release of the Open Screen Project that enables uncompromised Web browsing of expressive applications, content and video across devices.

Skim PDF Reader and Note Taker

PR: Skim is a PDF reader and note-taker for OS X. It is designed to help you read and annotate scientific papers in PDF, but is also great for viewing any PDF file.

Stop printing and start skimming.

Features:

  • Viewing PDFs
  • Adding and editing notes
  • Highlighting important text, including one-swipe highlight modes
  • Making "snapshots" for easy reference
  • Navigation using table of contents or thumbnails, with visual history
  • View all your notes and highlights
  • Convenient reading in full screen
  • Giving powerful presentations, with built-in transitions
  • Handy preview of internal links
  • Focus using a reading bar
  • Magnification tool
  • Smart cropping tools
  • Extensive AppleScript support
  • Bookmarks
  • Saving passwords in Keychain
  • Export notes as text
  • Automatic download of remote PDFs
  • Support for Apple Remote Control
  • Interaction with LaTeX, SyncTeX, and PDFSync
  • Integration with BibDesk and other third party applications
  • Spotlight support
  • Highly customizable

Current Version: 1.3.6

Version 1.3.6 New Features

  • Optional Script menu, see the Wiki for details.

Bugs Fixed

  • Fix preference for automatic update checking.
  • Fix preference control for PDF-TeX synchronization preset.
  • Don't show PDF previews in presentation mode.
  • Fix an exception on saving.
  • Make secondary PDF views key on mouse down.
  • Fix hiding Skim in full screen mode.
  • Fix info window on Leopard.
  • Search TeX editor in application bundle first.

System Requirements: Mac OS X 10.5 or higher

Latest Tiger Version: 1.2.7

Scribus Open Source Desktop Publishing

PR: Scribus is an Open Source program that brings award-winning professional page layout to Linux/Unix, Mac OS X, OS/2 Warp 4/eComStation and Windows desktops with a combination of "press-ready" output and new approaches to page layout. Underneath the modern and user friendly interface, Scribus supports professional publishing features, such as CMYK color, separations, Spot Colors, ICC color management and versatile PDF creation.

Scribus is an award-winning, cross-platform Open-Source page layout application with a focus on high-quality and commercial-grade PDF and PostScript output. Originally developed on Linux, Scribus runs natively on Mac OS X, OS/2, many forms of Unix and Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 by now.

Scribus is powerful software that helps you create great looking documents of all kinds. It also comes with a lot of support options to help you achieve the best result. There is an enthusiastic and friendly community around Scribus that assists beginner and pro alike through our mailing list, IRC channel, wiki, contracted support, and the bugtracker.

Underneath a user-friendly interface, Scribus supports professional publishing features, such as CMYK colour, spot colours, separations, ICC colour management, printing marks and versatile PDF creation, including PDF/X.

Encouraged by professionals and beginners alike, the Scribus Team, supported by a large and constantly growing number of enthusiastic contributors from all over the world, is dedicated to improve "one of the most powerful and useful open-source projects out there" (TechRepublic).

The Scribus Tea announces the release of Scribus 1.3.6. This version is another major step on the way to the next stable release 1.4.

Compared to the work on Scribus 1.3.5, the development of Scribus 1.3.6 was focused on stabilising the code base, and especially on weeding out issues that came from the porting of the code from Qt3 to Qt4.

Almost 150 bugs have been fixed since the release of 1.3.5. In addition, Scribus 1.3.6 provides some minor enhancements:

  • New Scripter functions
  • Usability improvements
  • Translation updates
  • More colour palettes
  • Updates to the documentation
  • Build instructions for OpenSolaris

The Scribus Team considers this version to be quite stable and ready for many real-world use cases. However, since there are still some annoyances that prevent us from releasing version 1.4, more cautious users may want to prefer to stick with the officially stable version 1.3.3.14.

The Scribus Team will continue to implement new features and improvements in a new experimental branch. Once tested and confirmed as working flawlessly, they will be backported and become part of the 1.4 milestone.

An important reminder:

  • If you are working with 1.3.3.x and decide to implement some design features available in 1.3.6, you should only work with a copy of your file, since once it is saved in 1.3.6 format, you will not be able to open it again with 1.3.3.x.

Similarly, if you are working with a team, try to make sure that all team members use the same Scribus version - this will avoid many headaches and extra work.

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